About the author

Paul Feldman is a FairWarning staff writer.

2 comments to “Critics Say Underride Fix Will Do Little to Curb Deadly Hazard”

  1. Stephen Hadley

    This article needs a little more research. To be fair to NHTSA, The Truck Safety Coalition presented to NHTSA at their meeting to present the petitions to the U.S. DOT the option to adopt the Canadian Regulation. It was after opposition from the Underride Network that the Truck Safety Coalition finally admitted that slightly higher-speed underride guards might be needed. We were attacked for this opposition to their proposal and after the TSC formed their own Underride Group I disbanded the Underride Network.

    We have seen Truck Safety degenerate in the U.S. to trucking union workplace safety issues such as truck driver fatigue, working hours, driver pay, and truck size and weight to force hiring fewer drivers. In several speeches to Congress about current issues in trucking safety, neither the TSC or Advocates even mentioned underride, underride guards, truck parking, or underride victims. There is no thought to the thousands of victims worldwide that suffer death and injury because weak laws here lead to weak laws in Europe and soon propagate worldwide. We talk about tens of deaths versus thousands and to compound the crimes members of Congress do not drive cars and so ignore car based safety issues. They fly, so Airline victims have regular attention, and some now ride bikes so side guards appear with car safety mention or effectiveness removed.

    We had NHTSA safety research cars in the 1970’s with square energy absorbing foam bumpers a foot thick, front, side, and rear. They bragged it would be virtually impossible to die in highway crashes. These cars disappeared after industry opposition much as the much publicized electric cars. We spend thousands for car bumpers which have engineered energy absorption even though mildly at best effective, and then give awards and praise to stiff underride guards that cost only hundreds. Guards that do not meet production guard technology available since 1970 and before.

    According to tests at IIHS, obstacle detection technology in cars is already quite capable. This should be effective in preventing most crashes to 35 mph as it is widely adopted in a couple of years. We are regulating and praising guards that are effective for low-speed crash speeds that will be rare and due to improving crash survival technology in cars non-fatal. We are helping to form a new regulation that after two years time to implementation 99% of trucks on the road will already meet. This means we are legalizing low-speed killer guards with no improvements to safety and the removal of poorly designed guards as an issue in wrongful death suits. We are simply legalizing guards already on the roads!

    A leading killer in rear underride crashes is illegally and unsafely parked trucks. Prior to the formation of the FMCSA the U.S. government used to publish safety messages reminding drivers of the dangers of roadside parking. These safety campaigns are cheap and could save 50% of the lives lost in rear underride crashes. They could recommend only parking on low-speed roadways and always placing safety triangles. They could demand state and local police start enforcing safe parking laws. We could save another percentage of victims in safety education on slow-moving trucks using flashers to warn motorists on hills and in traffic. We could pass laws making it illegal to non-emergency park trucks and trailers on federal highways and require by law use of flashers for slow-moving trucks.

    Under MASH we crash test crash attenuators at real world crash speeds of 62 mph. It is no surprise that crash attenuators are effective from 62 mph up to 70 mph and above. They engineer the equipment to meet the crash tests and no more. We are giving success to guard designers as they are passing our low-speed tests and they can use this success as a sales tool and have no incentive financially to improve guard effectiveness speeds. They are not required to engineer effective energy absorption for trucks as the absorption engineered into modern cars meets their needs at low-speeds. We do not test for differences in car size, weight, and design.

    The sad truth is this problem is easy to fix. Americans are not afraid of low-speed city roadway crashes, we are terrified on the freeway sandwiched in the front, sides, and rear by big trucks. We can solve a majority of rear fatalities with cheap safety training and simple laws. We can crash test at real world speeds and guard designers will engineer guards that pass the higher-speed tests using technology available since 1970. We can pass regulations that require more energy absorption from the truck and not place all of the burden of solving underride crashes to car crash safety engineering. We can tell the whole truth about truck crashes and truck safety for a change.

  2. Louis V. Lombardo

    Excellent article! The media should communicate this widely as an important public service from Fair Warning..

    The Karth family, IIHS, and the Truck Safety Coalition have done superb work.

    The Trucking Association continues to spout disinformation: “Ted Scott, the ATA’s director of engineering, questioned the idea of strengthening guards to prevent injuries at speeds exceeding 35 mph. “If you make the trailer capable of stopping anything,” he said, “now you’re running into a brick wall so you’re going to die anyway.””

    That was a concern that had some validity in the 1970’s before airbags and seat belts. Back then at NHTSA we were investigating use of Energy Absorbing guards such as the Quinton Hazell Underride Guard. Then in 1980, Reagan became President and safety work was abruptly stopped, NHTSA staff was reduced by 33% down to 600 people – a depressed level it remains at to this day. Ever since NHTSA has become an increasingly captive agency. See http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/29/opinion/weak-oversight-deadly-cars.html?_r=0

    With nearly 100 deaths, plus 400 serious injuries, estimated to cost nearly $2 Billion each average day in the U.S.A. today resulting from vehicle violence, the American people need to be informed and activated to demand safety from the clear and present dangers of all crashes. See
    http://www.careforcrashvictims.com/assets/MonthlyReportforJanuary2016-Corrected.pdf

Leave a comment