Will the Nat’l Technology Transfer & Advancement Act give us a Dragon Underride Protector?

Well, now I have found out about an interesting requirement for regulatory rulemaking related to safety standards.

“National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act The National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act of 1995 (NTTAA), Public Law 104– 113, Section 12(d) (15 U.S.C. 272), directs agencies to use voluntary consensus standards in regulatory activities unless doing so would be inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical. Voluntary consensus standards are technical standards (e.g., materials specifications, test methods, sampling procedures, and business practices) that are developed or adopted by voluntary consensus standard bodies, such as SAE.  NTTAA directs agencies to provide Congress explanations when they decide not to use available and applicable voluntary consensus standards.” TRANSPORTATION RESEARCH CIRCULAR E-C117 The Domain of Truck and Bus Safety Research

Now here’s a question: How would the National Technology Transfer and Advancement Act be interpreted and applied in the case of underride regulatory standards?

First, let’s look at an example related to seat belt assembly compliance testing:

The agency identified an ISO technical report (TR 1417-1974) and an SAE International standard (J384, Rev. JUN94) that have testing recommendations for vehicle seat belt anchorages. Both recommend the use of body blocks, similar to those currently specified in FMVSS No. 210, for applying the required test loads. The alternative strategy the agency is now considering in this SNPRM would continue the use of the FMVSS No. 210 body blocks. Accordingly, the alternative strategy employing the current body blocks is consistent with the ISO report and SAE standard. However, NHTSA has tentatively determined that the ISO report and SAE standard, among other matters, do not specify the positioning of the body blocks referenced in both with sufficient specificity to achieve the goals of this rulemaking. Thus, NHTSA has decided to base this SNPRM on the existing FMVSS No. 210 body blocks rather than explore using new ones, and to develop possible test procedures that make clear how the body blocks are to be positioned during FMVSS No. 210 compliance testing. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards: Seat Belt Assembly Anchorages

Now, let’s look at what the current proposed underride rule for rear impact protection on trailers says:

This NPRM proposes to adopt requirements of CMVSS No. 223, as discussed later in this section. NHTSA’s consideration of CMVSS No. 223 accords with the principles of NTTAA, in that NHTSA is considering an established, proven standard, and has not had to expend significant agency resources on the same safety need addressed by CMVSS No. 223Rear Impact Guards, Rear Impact Protection,

So, does this mean that NHTSA is choosing to adopt an existing underride standard (Canadian’s rear underride standard) rather than explore existing or future research, or standards from other countries, which might prove that stronger, more effective guards could be manufactured and thus save more lives?

Pourquoi? What would qualify as “available and applicable voluntary consensus standards”? Is this an attempt to avoid having to provide Congress, through OMB, with an explanation? If so, would they have to give an explanation for:

  1. Why they decide to use standards not already being implemented elsewhere? OR
  2. Why they decide not to use proven underride technology?

And what does ” inconsistent with applicable law or otherwise impractical” mean? Is this an insurmountable barrier? For example, does “impractical” refer to the cost/benefit analysis restrictions of Executive Order 12866 which we are asking to be addressed with a Vision Zero Executive Order?

I’m confused. Can this Technology & Transfer Act allow us to make use of advances in technology? Can we not move beyond what someone else has already used as a regulatory standard? Why would we settle for less than the best?

Here’s to hoping this question can get addressed and that the upcoming Underride Roundtable at IIHS on May 5, 2016, will serve as a “voluntary consensus standard body” to clearly and definitively delineate state-of-the-art technical voluntary consensus standards to provide the best possible underride protection in the whole wide world!

And call it the Dragon Underride Protector in honor of my son (who suggested that name and who, as a passenger, endured the same truck/car crash as his sisters and witnessed their deaths due to underride) and in memory of his sisters, AnnaLeah (forever 17) and Mary (13).

Dragon Underride Protector 004


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