The day after the Underride Roundtable, I feel drained, exhausted. There may have been a few people whom I did not greet, but it is quite possible that I talked with almost all of the 84 participants. That, in itself was very rewarding–touching base in person with so many people with whom I have spoken via phone or corresponded online over the last few years about this underride issue.
The successful crash testing of the Stoughton trailer’s new underride guard design in the 30% offset crash area (and Wabash’s last week) — like the other crash tests which I have observed — was a bittersweet moment. Grateful for the victory! Mourning that it was too late for Mary and AnnaLeah.
Not to mention the emotional challenge of sharing our story in that setting.
And then there were the stimulating discussions and the fact that I raised my hand countless times to ask a question. Push, push, push. . . challenge, question. Surely there are some who think that I am a thorn in their side.
But when it comes right down to it, most of those tasked with the responsibility of doing something about the underride problem (thankfully) do not have that inner voice reminding them that every ounce of patience with the status quo, every moment of pausing to be thankful for that bit of progress which has been made, is torture because it feels like a compromise is being made to stop forward momentum–thus giving up on the Best Possible Protection and sacrificing the life of yet one more underride victim as the Crash Death Clock continues to tick. Tick. Tock. Tick. Tock.
With yesterday’s successful crash test, 4 out of the 8 major trailer manufacturers have passed all of the tests posed by IIHS at 100%, 50%, and 30% overlap. That means, when a passenger vehicle collides with the rear of 50% of new tractor-trailers at a speed of up to 35 mph, passengers have a better chance of survival. That is good news.
What is next? Where do we go from here?
- At least 50% of the new tractor-trailers will not yet have that level of protection.
- Current underride standards require protection up to 35 mph. What about crashes which involve higher speeds?
- There are thousands of existing trailers which are not required to be retrofitted with safer rear underride guards.
- Trailers on North American roads are still not required to have side underride protection–despite it being anticipated in a 1969 DOT document.
- And Single Unit Trucks, for the most part, are not required to have rear underride protection–except for the 1953 variety.
- No trucks are required to have front underrun/override protection.
- Conspicuity–the ability to clearly notice the trucks from a distance in time to react safely as a passenger vehicle driver–is still an issue for both day and night driving.
- Adequate parking options for truck drivers, who need to stop and rest or whose truck may be broken down, are in shortage. And drivers need to be appropriately trained and equipped to mark their truck so that motorists can safely navigate around them.
- Australia/New Zealand has recently issued a proposed underride rule which is stronger than the current U.S. and the Canadian rules. What would stop us from adopting the strongest possible underride protection? Let’s not reinvent the wheel –not to mention neglect to save lives when it is possible to do so.
Looks like we need to get back to the drawing board come Monday morning. We’ve still got our work cut out for us. But, now that such a diverse and large group has voluntarily gathered together for an informative and challenging time at the Underride Roundtable, it is my hope that communication and collaboration will continue and good things will come out of our day at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Ruckersville, Virginia, on May 5, 2016.