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July 17, 2015 3:30 PM, EDT

NHTSA Requests Comment on Underride Guards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration on July 17 announced an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking seeking comment on the cost benefits of underride guards on single-unit trucks.

The agency said the ANPRM was a first step in improving underride and visibility protection for single unit and tractor-trailer trucks.

“Separately, NHTSA plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking proposing to upgrade the requirements for all guards,” the ANPRM said.

NHTSA said the ANPRM was being issued in response to a petition from the Truck Safety Coalition granted by the agency last year seeking improvements in the rear guard standard for single-unit and heavy tractor-trailer trucks.

“Underride may occur to some extent in collisions in which a small passenger vehicle crashes into the rear end of a large single-unit truck or trailer because the SUT or trailer bed is higher than the hood of the passenger vehicle,” NHTSA said. “In passenger compartment intrusion crashes, the passenger vehicle underrides so far that the rear end of the struck vehicle strikes and enters the passenger compartment.”

There are current federal requirements in place ensuring that single-unit trucks provide some degree of rear-impact protection, the proposal said. 

But the agency said it is requesting comments that would help it assess and make judgments on the benefits, costs and other impacts of strategies that increase the crash protection to occupants of vehicles crashing into the rear of SUTs or that increase the likelihood of avoiding a crash into SUTs.

Since 2011, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has conducted crash tests on truck underride guards, has been pressing NHTSA to require rear underride guards on large trucks that are strong enough to remain in place during a crash.

"IIHS research and crash tests helped lay the groundwork for an upgraded U.S. standard,” said David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer. “We are pleased to see NHTSA take the first step to require underride guards on trucks currently exempt from the standard.”

NHTSA estimates that a requirement for rear-impact guards on single-unit trucks could save five lives and prevent 30 injuries each year, and would cost about $669 million to equip approximately 342,000 vehicles.

A requirement for reflective tape on single-unit trucks could save up to 14 lives per year with a cost of about $30 million annually, for about 579,000 new SUTs, NHTSA said.

“If we can raise the public’s awareness of large trucks and help trucks be more visible to others on the road, we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries in underride crashes — or prevent these crashes from happening in the first place,” NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind said in a statement.