In June 2016, I received a link from Clarence Ditlow to a regulations.gov Federal Register 1981 proposed truck underride rule. As I was reflecting on Clarence’s recent death and his life as a car safety advocate, I remembered that email.
When I was able to locate the email, I realized that I had not fully read the proposed rule, so I took some time this morning to do so and have recorded highlights of that document below. Points or questions not in quotes are my own thoughts.
Because this was a lengthy summary, I am going to include a link for the reader: “Old Underride Petition”; Highlights of a 1981 Rear Underride Rule
Federal Register Docket and Full Proposed Rule pdf can be found here: Rear Impact Guards/Protection: Docket ID: NHTSA-1996-1827
What I would like to know is whether NHTSA will be reviewing prior documents and research (such as this represents) as well as take into account the impact that advances in technology and knowledge when preparing future underride rulemaking? Just for example, would the crashworthiness of “modern” passenger vehicles (e.g., the installation of air bags) change the conclusions drawn in this document?
I would also like to know what the actual cost/benefit analysis formula was which they used in this document as well as in the current underride rulemaking. Does it take a Vision Zero/Road to Zero approach? And would they think that my daughters were worth saving?
Some of the key points of this 1981 proposed underride rule include:
“The agency had tentatively determined that a better regulation was needed because of the continuing problem of fatalities and serious injuries occurring in accidents involving excessive underride, and because of the absence of efforts by the vehicle manufacturers generally to go sufficiently beyond the BMCS requirement.”
“In 1971, after evaluating cost and accident data and reviewing all information received in response to the notices, NHTSA terminated those rulemaking efforts. The Administrator of the agency concluded that the safety benefits achievable with the particular type of underride guard then contemplated would not be commensurate with the cost of implementing the standard.”
“The agency had estimated that the proposed rule would save 50-100 lives per year at an annual cost to the consumer of $500,000,000 .”
“Most of the implementation costs estimated by NHTSA were related to the increase in guard weight which it thought was necessary to meet the proposed requirements.”
“Efforts to improve underride protection resumed in 1977, after the Auto-Truck Crash Safety Hearing was held by Senator Wendell H. Ford. This hearing was the direct result of a program conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in 1976.”
“This program focused on the problem of preventing excessive underride. IIHS performed five tests in which passengers car were crashed into the rear of a typical semi-trailer van.
“In addition, the TTI program tested a hydraulic energy-absorbing guard manufactured by Quinton-Hazell Automotive Ltd. (Quinton-Hazell). (An energy-absorbing guard is one that dissipates the energy of the impact in a controlled manner.)”
“The Quinton-Hazell device was very effective both at preventing excessive underride, reducing occupant injury responses, and reducing damage to the colliding vehicle.”
- “Despite their apparent advantages, NHTSA will not mandate the use of energy-absorbing underride devices at this time because the agency feels that they are heavy and costly to use.”
- “NHTSA encourages the use of energy absorbing guards in light of their ability to mitigate injuries, as evidenced by the testing and the risk analysis.”
- “NHTSA stresses that the requirements set forth in the proposed rule are minimum requirements. If adopted truck and trailer manufacturers and owners would be able to place any type of underride guard — rigid, energy-absorbing, moderate strength, etc. — on their vehicle that meets the requirements of the rule.”
- “In light of the results of the risk analysis, however, the agency suggests that manufacturers interested in guards stronger than moderate load design consider using hydraulics or other means to absorb energy rather than merely making the guards more rigid.”
- “NHTSA estimates that the proposed requirements could have prevented as many as 80 fatal injuries per year if they had been fully implemented in the period from 1977 to 1979. An even greater number of serious injuries would have been prevented.”
Read the other 80 points here: old-underride-petition
How do you interpret those statements? What does it look like to you? Am I the only one who is appalled at their apparent “washing of their hands” of responsibility for the lives lost due to their negligence in mandating the best possible underride protection?
Even if I were willing to overlook their actions in the past, I am not willing to settle for a future rule to continue this kind of travesty. In conjunction with voluntary improvement in underride protection which we are beginning to see, I want to see effective underride protection installed all around trucks because I know it is possible.
I am convinced that this kind of protection will be near to impossible to attain until this country understands and demands Vision Zero Rulemaking as an essential component of its Road to Zero Coalition strategy.
What will President Trump and the next Secretary of Transportation do about this?