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NHTSA seeks public comment on side underride guard safety, efficacy; forms advisory committee

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The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) on Tuesday published an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking to consider requirements for trailer and semitrailer side underride guards.

NHTSA seeks comments on approaches to potentially mitigate or eliminate side underride motor vehicle crashes. The rulemaking is in response to President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, which directs NHTSA to look at the overall effectiveness of side underride guards and assess the feasibility, benefits, costs, and other impacts of installing them on trailers and semitrailers.

The rulemaking is also in response to a petition from Marianne Karth and the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) to begin studies and rulemakings on side underride guards and front override guards on trucks. NHTSA began its research on side underride guards following a March 2019 Government Accountability Office (GAO) recommendation to conduct additional research on side underride guards “to better understand the overall effectiveness and cost associated with these guards,” according to the notice.

Impact guards are designed to absorb energy and prevent a passenger vehicle involved in a crash with a large truck or trailer from sliding under the impacted trailer, which causes severe injuries and fatalities, NHTSA said. The administration also announced the who will be on its Advisory Committee on Underride Protection — a requirement set forth in President Joe Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and is a key part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Roadway Safety Strategy (NRSS).

“NHTSA estimates that 17.2 lives would be saved and 69 serious injuries would be prevented annually when all trailers in the fleet are equipped with side underride guards,” the notice states. “The discounted annual safety benefits when side underride guards are equipped on all applicable trailers and semitrailers are estimated to range from $129 million to $166 million at 3 and 7 percent discount rates. The total discounted annual cost (including lifetime fuel cost) of equipping new trailers and semitrailers with side underride guards is estimated to range between $970 million and $1.2 billion at 3 and 7 percent discount rates. The resulting cost per equivalent life saved is in the range of $73.5 million to $103.7 million.”

More information about the rulemaking process is available here.

The committee will make recommendations to the Secretary of Transportation on safety regulations related to underride crashes that have caused severe injuries and death.

When unveiling the NRSS in January 2022, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg called the status quo “unacceptable” and said the safety plan, to be implemented over three years, would decrease the number of roadway deaths. Although he said it might not happen while he’s still at the helm, the goal is to reach zero deaths. The plan outlines multiple agency actions focused on safety from policy and regulation to increased investments in road design.

“Safety is at the core of everything we do,” NHTSA Deputy Administrator Sophie Shulman said in a statement Tuesday. “The selection and establishment of this committee is a step forward in saving lives and fulfilling the goals of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. This committee will inform future actions and ensure that key stakeholders have a seat at the table on this important issue.”

Sixteen people were selected to serve on the Advisory Committee on Underride Protection for their expertise, training, or experience in related trucking and transportation safety areas as well as law enforcement.

The members are:

    • Marianne Karth and Jane Mathis to represent families of underride crash victims;
    • Harry Adler and Jennifer Tierney to represent truck safety organizations;
    • Lee Jackson and Aaron Kiefer to represent motor vehicle crash investigators;
    • Adrienne Gildea to represent law enforcement;
    • Daniel McKisson to represent labor organizations;
    • Jeff Bennett and Jeff Zawacki to represent motor vehicle engineers;
    • Matthew Brumbelow and Claire Mules to represent the insurance industry;
    • Dan Horvath and Doug Smith to represent motor carriers, including independent owner-operators; and
    • John Freiler and Kristin Glazner to represent truck and trailer manufacturers.


Featured image credit: kozmoat98/iStock

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