Powerful & Informative Case Made for Underride Guard Improvement by Trucker/Attorney

Even if you think that you know all there is to know about truck underride, you’ll want to read the comments by this truck driver/truck crash attorney. He provides an in-depth understanding of how underride occurs and the horrific results.

With the extended Public Comment period coming to a close for Rear Underride Protection on Single Unit Trucks, there are some additional comments just posted on The Federal Register at regulations.gov.  http://www.regulations.gov/#!docketDetail;dct=FR+PR+N+O+SR;rpp=10;po=0;D=NHTSA-2015-0070

Of particular note is a very informative and powerful comment recently posted by Andy Young, a husband, father, truck owner, Class A CDL driver, truck accident attorney and a trial attorney: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA-2015-0070-0075 . The remainder of this post contains his public comment on that website:

“I bring a unique and varied perspective to the very issue under consideration. Not only does my background and experience provide me with credibility to make the within comments, but I have also researched issues regarding rear underride guards, lateral protection devices, and front override prevention. My research has even taken me overseas to see how other countries are handling some of the very issues raised in the comments submitted by original equipment manufacturers and by those who are part of the commercial trucking industry. Due to both my practical experience and research, I comment as a proponent in favor of the advance notice of proposed rulemaking (ANPRM).

Underride Crashes = The Eight Figure Jury Verdict

“The automotive industry spends millions, if not billions, in research and development. This research and development is specific to improving a vehicle’s safety features (energy absorbing bumpers, crumple zones, air bags, seat belts, etc.) all designed to keep the vehicle occupants safe. The engineering behind these safety features can mean the difference between a minor injury and a tragic fatality. No matter how safe the car may actually be, the safety features are only effective if there is good structural interaction (crash compatibility) between collision partners. This means there is a geometrical match up of the crush structure of both the striking vehicle and the vehicle being struck.

“A two vehicle collision involving a single-unit, commercial motor vehicle (CMV) and a light passenger vehicle frequently results in a mismatch of structural components at the first point of impact. The crash incompatibility is in large part due to the height of the CMV. This often results in an “underride” collision. The lower profile passenger vehicle physically goes underneath the higher profile CMV. The first point of impact is beyond the hood and into the glass windshield. The second point of impact then literally becomes the heads, faces, and chest of the lower profile vehicle’s occupants.

“Air bags do not deploy because the lower profile vehicle’s bumpers and air bag sensors are not triggered. Energy absorbing bumpers and crumple zones, all designed to keep the passenger compartment intact, become irrelevant. The load path from the crash results in energy that does not initially strike the intended engineered crush structure of the passenger vehicle. With no air bag and the vehicle traveling underneath the opposing vehicle, the occupant compartment is pierced resulting in a passenger compartment intrusion.

Thereafter, the seat belts restraining the occupants fail to prevent catastrophic injury or deadly consequences as the energy from the collision is absorbed directly by the human body. The car’s occupants then suffer the most horrific crash consequences: death by blunt trauma; decapitation; open skull fractures; traumatic brain injuries; degloving of the face; spinal cord injuries; paraplegia; or quadriplegia.

“The truck driver then suffers with a career-ending criminal vehicular homicide and/or criminal vehicular assault charges. At the very least, the truck driver suffers the psychological trauma associated with being an integral part of such a horrific crash. The truck company then likely encounters a civil lawsuit. The fatalities and catastrophic injuries associated with underride crashes typically produce seven figure to eight figure verdicts, all exceeding minimum insurance requirements. Smaller truck companies are saddled with paying the judgments in excess of insurance coverage. These companies then must sell assets and/or end up filing for bankruptcy.

“Everyone loses in an underride truck crash, the truck company and truck driver included. The typical argument that energy absorbing underride guards would increase weight and costs associated with that increase, simply do not equal the costs associated with the potential of a seven to eight figure jury verdict. My question to those in opposition to this measure is: if you are concerned about saving weight, then why not the same level of concern for saving lives?

Underride Lawsuit Example

“Underride crashes resulting in these devastating injuries and fatal results can even occur at lower speeds. A verdict was recently achieved in an underride collision involving a dump truck and a Honda sedan (Kiara E. Torres and Joshua Rojas vs. Concrete Designs, Inc., et al., Cuyahoga County, Case No. CV 12 795422 & 795474). The first point of impact was the windshield and “A Pillar” of the Honda’s front passenger side coming into contact with the back left corner of the dump truck’s cargo bed. The Honda’s front bumper and hood traveled underneath the dump truck’s steel cargo bed without damage. The geometrical mismatch of the collisions’ two partners caused the corner of the dump truck cargo bed to cut through the Honda’s windshield and into the skull of the right front seat passenger. This young man miraculously survived, but suffered an open skull fracture, a traumatic brain injury, and substantial physical limitations – all requiring a prohibitively expensive life care plan. Unfortunately, the Honda had three other passengers and this young man was not the only one exposed to the passenger compartment intrusion.

“The passenger compartment intrusion continued along the right side length of the Honda. The right backseat passenger succumbed to the load forces and also suffered a traumatic brain injury. Intriguingly and not atypical of collisions piercing into the passenger compartment, the two occupants on the left side of the Honda (the driver and the passenger behind the driver) walked away from the accident with minor injuries. The dump truck driver was also uninjured. Frequently, occupants not effected by the passenger compartment intrusion (particularly at lower speeds) can suffer no injury at all while those effected by the PCI can end up with injuries that result in substantial verdicts. The Jury returned a verdict in favor of the front seat passenger in the amount of $34,600,000.00 and the back seat right passenger in the amount of $7,800,000.00. 100% of the fault was apportioned against the dump truck driver. The total verdict for this underride crash was $42,400,000.00.

Over 62 Years Since Rear Underride Guard Requirement Update On SUTs

“The first standard for rear underride guards on CMVs was issued in 1953 by the Bureau of Motor Carriers. On June 29, 1967, national attention was brought to the issue of rear underride guard protection and vehicle crash compatibility when Jayne Mansfield, American actress, was killed as a front seat passenger in a 1966 Buick Electra. In spite of the 1953 rear guard requirement, this Buick hit the back of a tractor-trailer resulting in beyond the windshield passenger compartment intrusion. Three adults and three children were involved in the crash. The three adults seated in the front seat, Jayne Mansfield, her companion Attorney Sam Brody, and the car driver, Ronald B. Harrison were all killed. The actress’ three children (eight-year-old Mickey, six-year-old Zoltan, and three-year-old Marie) all survived and were claimed to have been in the back seat of the car. Early media reports wrongly believed Ms. Mansfield to have been decapitated.

“In 1969 and 1977, the NHTSA proposed an advance notice of rule making. Both regulatory attempts failed. Forty-five years after the 1953 rule requiring rear underride guards, the NHTSA promulgated an updated rear underride guard standard that became effective in 1998. The new mandate was for combination tractor-trailers only. They did not include single unit trucks (SUTs). The new rule required the following: rear guard ground clearance to be no more than 22 inches; rear wheel setbacks of no more than 12 inches from the cargo bed; and strength testing requirements. To date, the NHTSA has not updated rear underride guard requirements for SUTs. It is hoped that this ANPRM will succeed to regulatory mandate.

“In a letter dated April 3, 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) urged the NHTSA to take action regarding underride guards. The NTSB letter asked for a number of items regarding rear and side underride protections systems all “designed to prevent accidents and save lives” (Hersman, Deborah A.P., Chair, National Transportation Safety Board, Safety Recommendations, H-14-001 through -007, letter to The Honorable David J. Friedman, Acting Administrator, National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, page 14). On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA granted a petition for rule making submitted by Ms. Marianne Karth and the Truck Safety Coalition requesting the agency improve the safety of rear underride guards on trailers and SUTs (DOT, NHTSA, “Grant of Petition for Rulemaking; 49 CFR Part 571 FMVSS, Rear Impact Guards; Rear Impact Protection”). The Petitioners also made a request to improve side underride guards and front override protection.

Comments Against Need To Be Met With Skepticism

“Industry equipment manufacturers state that rear guards cannot be placed on various construction related vehicles. These statements need to be met with skepticism. Many European CMVs already have rear-underride guard protection on trucks, like dump trucks or box trucks with lift gates. Please see the following photographs I took while I attended the Commercial Vehicle Show in Birmingham, England this past April, 2014.

Note: The Public Comment can be accessed here to see the indicated photos.  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA-2015-0070-0075

“As evidenced by the photographs above, the U.S. lags behind other developed nations in providing meaningful rear impact protection. The photos above are just two examples of numerous applications allowing for rear impact protection and a lift gate or dump application. The argument that many SUTs need to have “good off-road mobility at construction sites” or “hitch connections” and therefore cannot have rear impact protection is likewise out-of-date thinking. Below, please see photographs from one vendor at the Commercial Motor Vehicle Show in Birmingham, England.

“While it is not readily apparent by these photographs, the vendor demonstrated how the rear impact protection guard can be adjusted up and down, as needed. Technology exists that debunk the argument that the rear impact guard would interfere with the work that the truck must perform.

Conclusion

“In this magnificent country of ours it is difficult to accept the fact that as a nation we are decades behind protecting our motorists from underride and/or override crash scenarios. The NHTSA has been slow to meaningfully regulate underride guard protection. As such, local governments, such as the City of Boston are passing ordinances requiring lateral protection devices on SUTs. Even the University of Washington announced that it is installing side guards on its campus fleet of SUTs. I implore the NHTSA to seriously consider meaningful passage of the pending proposal. We need to make sure that our citizens have the same protection as those in other nations. Sixty-two years is too long to wait to pass regulatory requirements that afford rear impact protection and other safety devices on single unit trucks.

“If you have any questions, I can be reached at 216-789-4832. My email is andytatransport@gmail.com. My Twitter account is @SafeDriveHome”

Note: Additional information can be gained by an article on underride by the same author: http://www.nphm.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/Piercing-The-Passenger-Compartment1.pdf?fd9d09 .

See my Public Comment as a firsthand example of the horrific, fatal injuries which too often occur in underride crashes: Marianne Karth – Comment  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA-2015-0070-0018

Underride Research Meme

Learn how AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety is raising $ for Underride Research–a timely and life-saving effort:  https://www.fortrucksafety.com/

Our Vision Zero Petition seeks to bring about practical solutions to the problem of motor vehicle crash fatalities & injuries: http://www.thepetitionsite.com/417/742/234/save-lives-not-dollars-urge-dot-to-adopt-vision-zero-policy/

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