Underride guards statements from NHTSA, trucking associations

Statement from David Strickland, NHTSA administrator:

"The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is deeply committed to improving safety and reducing the number of deaths and injuries on our roadways, including those involving large trucks. The agency is actively working to improve truck underride protection and recently completed an in-depth field analysis -which was published yesterday- to support potential changes to existing federal safety standards. The driving public should know that we are actively working to address the issues raised in IIHS’s report and that their safety will always be our top priority."

Additional background information from NHTSA:

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is aware of the truck underride issue and has been conducting research and meeting with stakeholders for some time.

NHTSA recently completed an in-depth field analysis with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMTRI) that evaluated fatal truck underride crashes to better quantify and characterize crash factors including impact speed, trailer type/age, crash impact and the amount of underride.   The analysis is a census of every real-world fatal crash involving large trucks over a two year period The new data is invaluable as it provides a true representation of underride crashes in the field to support potential changes to existing federal safety standards. The final report was published yesterday and can be accessed here: http://www.nhtsa.gov/Research/Crashworthiness/Truck%20Underride
  
While the agency has not formally responded to IIHS’s petition,  the agency has discussed the issue of underride with the IIHS, as well as the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA), American Trucking Association (ATA), and Transport Canada and is aware that manufacturers are already adopting Canadian guard standards.  Almost every newly manufactured trailer has the Canadian guard. 

Moving forward, results from the field analysis, IIHS’s tests, international standards and other data will be leveraged by NHTSA and may inform potential changes to existing federal safety standards - including more stringent rear-impact guard requirements - based on what all the data show.  More broadly, in addition to underride, NHTSA has research underway that would raise the bar on safety for large trucks—such as the potential use of crash avoidance technologies, new measures to improve the crash safety of truck cabs, among other efforts.

Statement from American Trucking Associations

“The trucking is committed to safety for all motorists and its clear that there has been significant improvement in the performance of these pieces of safety equipment in recent years, improvement we expect to continue as newer trailers are sold and go into use. However, we – and some government regulators – are concerned that by trying to address the crashes IIHS highlighted as dangerous, it may in fact undo some of the progress that’s been made in other areas of underride protection.

Trailers have a significant – as much as 10 years – lifespan, so new regulations would likely take some time to have an impact. In the meantime, we continue to believe the best underride guard in the world cannot prevent a crash and we should focus on preventing crashes as a first step to real safety improvements.”

"The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety made us aware of their findings before releasing this study and we're appreciative of that. Highway safety for both the motoring public and our drivers is our first priority. Underride guards designed to save lives of automobile occupants must do exactly that, save lives. This report shows that since IIHS' first study in 2011, trailer manufacturers have responded favorably and have already taken steps to surpass current federal standards for these guards.

"However, despite these encouraging results, we must also focus on preventing these kinds of crashes in the first place because the best underride guard is the one that never needs to be used.  More driver education on sharing the road with large commercial vehicles is a must, and promoting greater use of collision avoidance technology in both cars and trucks will also produce results. Many studies show that as many as three in four fatalities involving cars and trucks are unintentionally initiated or caused by the driver of the car.  That’s why we believe education for all drivers is a critical component of improving highway safety and programs like ATA’s Share the Road initiative play a key role in that.

"ATA's Share the Road program teaches all motorists how to safely drive around large trucks. A lot of this education focuses on safe following distances and it is important to leave a safety cushion of 20 to 25 car lengths (240 to 300 feet) in order to react should the vehicle ahead, including a truck, need to stop quickly. In addition to education, ATA also has endorsed an 18-point Safety Agenda that includes items like reducing speeds, increasing the use of seat belts, promotion of car-truck behavior improvement programs, researching the potential need for new truck crashworthiness standards and expanding the availability of safe truck parking."

Read: Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association Statement

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