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April 9, 2019 11:30 AM, EDT

CVSA Petitions FMCSA to Drop Rear Underride Guard Label Requirement

FMCSA A Stoughton Trailers rear impact guard. (Joseph Terry/Transport Topics)

The Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance has petitioned federal regulators to eliminate a requirement that manufacturer certification stickers be on truck and trailer rear underride guards.

The purpose of the labels is to confirm that the impact guards meet federal production standards but does not ensure that the guards are properly maintained over time, according to CVSA.

“Rear impact guard certification labels frequently wear, fade or are removed during repair,” said a CVSA petition request letter sent last month to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. “Since carriers are unable to acquire new certification labels from the original equipment manufacturer, there are no reasonable options to meet the certification requirement.”

FMCSA

Gillibrand (left) and Rubio

The petition request came as the result of a special one-day enforcement effort by CVSA inspectors last summer to take a closer look at the condition of rear impact underride guards, a requirement of both Level I and Level V inspections. The enhanced enforcement was in response to a congressional request for commercial motor vehicle inspectors to spend a day collecting data on the condition and maintenance of rear trailer and truck underride guards. The request was made by Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), who in late 2017 introduced a bill calling for a regulation that would require trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds ensure that rear guards meet a specified performance standard. Last month, the Senate bill, along with a companion House bill, were reintroduced.

Underride guards are intended to help prevent vehicles from sliding underneath a semi-trailer during a rear-end crash.

The August one-day inspection data showed that 72% of trucks did not have the certification stickers attached to their rear guards, said Kerri Wirachowsky, director of CVSA’s roadside inspections program. “But a truck could still have a damaged, warped, bent or broken rear guard even if it has a certification label attached,” she said.

CVSA logo

Checking the guard for the certification sticker and for its condition and proper placement on the back of the truck is part of a Level I inspection. Although a rear guard violation does not put a truck out of service, it does prohibit the inspector from issuing a CVSA decal for a truck, Wirachowsky said.

“When the certification sticker rule first came out in 1998, there was concern that Billy Bob would build a rear impact guard in his back yard and put it on the back of a trailer,” Wirachowsky said. “Well, now it’s 2019 and they have basically concluded that’s not happening. People are not building them on the back 40.”

The certification sticker is not subject to an out-of-service violation because it is not going to cause a crash, she said.

“A bad rear impact guard may increase the severity of a crash if a vehicle goes underneath a trailer,” Wirachowsky said. “But that’s a little different than the intention of an out-of-service violation.”

But the certification label issue was not the only lesson learned from the day of rear underride-guard special-enforcement emphasis last summer, she said.

“We did conclude based on the data collected in August that inspectors aren’t inspecting rear guards the way they should,” Wirachowsky said. “When we put a focus on it, there were way more violations out there than what inspectors were documenting.”

As a result, CVSA put together a training review module for the inspection of rear impact guards.