The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has finally initiated a rulemaking to upgrade the rear underride standard for trucks. As we have mentioned in prior issues, there has long been a real need for an upgrade in the rear underride standard for trucks. Marianne Karth, who is with the Truck Safety Coalition, and 11,000 signatories, are due lots of credit for NHTSA finally taking action. They have succeeded where the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), even with all of its efforts, had failed. In early July, NHTSA published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that it would issue two separate notices:
• an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking on rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single-unit trucks, and
• an NPRM on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers.
Apparently, it was a May 5 meeting between the Coalition and Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx that turned the tide. The advocacy group presented its signatures and made a strong case that amendments to FMVSS No. 223, Rear Impact Guards, and FMVSS No. 224, Rear Impact Protection, were long overdue.
To its credit, in 2011, IIHS submitted a petition to “require stronger underride guards that will remain in place during a crash and to mandate guards for more large trucks and trailers.” It appears that NHTSA neither denied it nor issued any official response to the petition. Clearly, the position should have been granted. The Institute presented lots of good data to the data-driven agency. The Institute examined crash patterns leading to rear underride of heavy trucks and semi-trailers with and without guards, using the Large Truck Crash Causation Study, a federal database of roughly 1,000 real-world crashes in 2001-03. It found that underride was a common outcome of the 115 crashes involving a passenger vehicle striking the back of a heavy truck or semi-trailer. The following is a recap of the rear guard protection battles that we received from Sean Kane:
• Rear guard protection has been a federal requirement since 1952, when the Bureau of Motor Carriers of the Interstate Commerce Commission required heavy trucks, trailers, and semitrailers to be equipped with a rear-end protection device designed to help prevent underride. The regulation contained no specifics as to the device’s efficacy, but merely required the guard to be “substantially constructed and firmly attached.
• In 1967, the Federal Highway Administration attempted to begin a rulemaking to require a rear underride guard for trucks, buses and trailers, but industry fought off any substantive upgrade to the regulations for 44 years.
• In 1996, NHTSA published a final rule establishing two Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS) – 223, Rear Impact Guards, and 224, Rear Impact Protection.
• FMVSS 223, the equipment standard, specified strength requirements and compliance procedures for rear impact guards on semitrailers.
• FMVSS 224, the vehicle standard, specified mounting instructions and location specifications for those guards.
NHTSA has done little since 1996 to improve the rule. The IIHS, which has been advocating for a better rear underride standard for decades, has launched a series of research projects that have ranged from determining the scope of the problem to developing a new underride guard. Last March, the Institute published the results of its latest round of testing. IIHS has continued its research into effective underride prevention. In 2013, the Institute, which has worked long and hard on this project, published the results of the additional testing it performed.
If you need more information relating to the battle to get a stronger underride standard, contact Sean Kane, who is quite knowledgeable on this subject, as he is on automobile safety issues generally, at safetyresearch.com or by phone at 508-252-2333.
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