WASHINGTON — Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., Tuesday stood alongside families of truck under-ride crash victims and truck safety advocates to announce bipartisan legislation, the Stop Under-rides Act of 2017, to help prevent deadly truck under-ride crashes.
Gillibrand is introducing this bipartisan legislation in the Senate with Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla. An under-ride crash occurs when a car slides under the body of a tractor-trailer during an accident.
When these accidents happen, a car’s safety features are not able to protect passengers because most of the car slides under the trailer, and the truck comes straight through the windows and into the passengers.
The passengers in the car often suffer severe head and neck injuries, even decapitation, on impact with the truck, Gillibrand said, noting these types of accidents are often fatal, even at low speeds.
Gillibrand’s and Rubio’s legislation would require under-ride guards on the sides and front of a truck and update the current standards for under-ride guards on the back of trucks. It would also ensure that the annual inspection for all large trucks includes under-ride guards as part of the inspection and would require the Department of Transportation to review under-ride standards every five years to evaluate the need for changes in response to advancements in technology.
The senator said studies and pilot programs show that a simple barrier attached to the lower area of a truck, called an under-ride guard, would help prevent a car from sliding underneath a truck during an accident. Under current federal law, under-ride guards are not required to be on the sides or front of trucks, Gillibrand said.
Both the Truckload Carriers Association and the American Trucking Associations support equipment and technology that further advances commercial vehicle safety.
The federal government should set engineering (including reliability) performance standards for new truck equipment to ensure safe and efficient operations. Standards for new and in-service truck equipment should be based on sound economic and engineering principles that enhance safety.
“TCA is eager to work with all parties in assuring that future equipment developments are safe, efficient, reliable, long-lived and easily maintained,” the association’s policy on equipment reads, adding that federal rulemakings on engineering standards for new truck equipment should address performance capability and not design technology.
“ATA has supported efforts to strengthen rear under-ride guards in the past, based on data from years of study by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration and the experiences of our members. NHTSA is already examining the potential benefits and problems with side under-ride guards and we believe they should be able to continue with their work and we look forward to the results of their research,” said Sean McNally, vice president of communications and press secretary at ATA. “In the meantime, ATA is committed to working with NHTSA, Congress and others on ways to improve highway safety, including fostering the development of promising vehicle technology like automatic emergency braking and collision warning systems, which can prevent many types of crashes in the first place, and supporting the new requirements for electronic logging devices, which studies have shown are associated with decreased crash rates and Hours of Service violations.”
Gillibrand said with so many unpredictable accidents on the road, under-ride guards are an easy solution for protecting people and preventing them from dying when a car collides with a truck.
“This bipartisan legislation would save lives, and we should pass it as quickly as possible to keep Americans safe while they’re driving, whether they’re heading to see family and friends for the holidays or driving to work on their morning commute. I urge all of my colleagues to join me and Sen. Rubio on this bipartisan bill.”
Rubio said Florida was one of the states with the highest number of reported fatalities due to under-ride collisions.
“With hundreds of Americans losing their lives due to these crashes every year, the Stop Under-rides Act seeks to prevent these kind of deaths, make our roads safer, and spare more families the grief of losing a loved one by implementing under-ride guards on trucks across the nation,” Rubio said. “I ask my colleagues in Congress to join me in advancing efforts to have hundreds of lives across the country.”
The bill has been referred to the Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee.