WASHINGTON — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has begun accepting nominations for its advisory committee on underride protection for semi-trailers.
The NHTSA also announced plans to report the findings of research and data collection on side underride guards, and also publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to consider requirements for side underride guards.
This announcement comes just as the agency recently finalized a rule governing rear impact guards on trailers and semi-trailers — a rule that has garnered some criticism in transportation circles.
“The result of the rulemaking process, which was initiated in 2015, is a completely inadequate standard that will make road users less safe and undermines the Biden Administration’s stated goal of working towards zero roadway deaths,” according to a statement from the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (AHAS).
Underride crashes happen when a vehicle travels underneath the rear or side of a truck trailer, often with deadly consequences. The rule requires that the rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers possess sufficient strength and energy absorption to protect occupants of passenger vehicles in multiple crash scenarios. NHTSA’s final rule upgrades the current safety standards addressing rear collision protection.
In 2019, 531 of the 2,132 passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes involving large truck crashes died when their vehicles struck the rear of a large truck.
For decades, AHAS officials have been urging the adoption of comprehensive underride guard safety standards to prevent fatalities and injuries resulting from these horrific collisions.
“Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) is deeply disappointed that nearly seven years after the Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) on truck rear underride guards was issued, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration released a rule that is substantially weaker than the current test the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been using to rate rear underride guards for the last five years, especially considering nine major trailer manufacturers meet it,” Cathy Chase, president of AHAS, said.
“Unfortunately, today’s action allows trucking companies to choose a less safe course of action at the expense of road user safety. With large truck fatalities on the rise, the Agency responsible for the safety of our nation’s roads needs to be taking action to improve, not imperil, protections for road users.”
Joan Claybrook, a former NHTSA administrator, said that the final rule on rear underride guards “amounts to nothing less than regulatory malpractice. It would have been better if NHTSA had not acted at all. Instead of improving protections to reduce underride fatalities and injuries, the agency has gone backward by issuing a rule that 94% of trailers already meet. As such, NHTSA has lowered the bar on public safety instead of ensuring it. This is an affront to the families of underride victims who have been working so hard to have the standard updated.”
Underride protection committee
The committee will have no more than 20 members with at least two representatives from each of the following categories:
- Truck and trailer manufacturers.
- Motor carriers, including independent owner-operators.
- Law enforcement.
- Motor vehicle engineers.
- Motor vehicle crash investigators.
- Truck safety organizations.
- The insurance industry.
- Emergency medical service providers.
- Families of underride crash victims.
- Labor organizations.
Members of the committee will be expected to perform these duties:
- Gather information as necessary to discuss issues presented by the designated federal officer.
- Deliberate on issues relevant to safety regulations related to underride crashes and fatalities from underride crashes.
- Provide written consensus advice to the secretary on underride protection to reduce underride crashes and fatalities relating to underride crashes.
- Submit to the House and Senate committees a biennial report that describes the recommendations made to the secretary and includes an assessment of progress made by the secretary in advancing safety regulations relating to underride crashes.
The Trucker News Staff produces engaging content for not only TheTrucker.com, but also The Trucker Newspaper, which has been serving the trucking industry for more than 30 years. With a focus on drivers, the Trucker News Staff aims to provide relevant, objective content pertaining to the trucking segment of the transportation industry. The Trucker News Staff is based in Little Rock, Arkansas.