Why COMPREHENSIVE Underride Protection Legislation?

Why, you might ask, would we write a piece of legislation calling for a comprehensive underride protection rule? Why not have separate bills for side underride and rear underride and front underride and Single Unit Trucks (SUTs), et cetera?

I am convinced of the importance of this strategy and want to share some of my thoughts here.

For Such A Time As This

What can we discover from past attitudes or strategies to address underride deaths?

1. Fragmented approach has led to weak and ineffective protection on some parts of a truck and other parts unprotected (or no protection on Single Unit Trucks)
2. Various aspects of underride protection were treated as separate, unrelated issues
3. Various stakeholders worked in isolation rather than collaboratively
4. Waited for industry to take initiative (or express approval)
5. Not addressed with a sense of urgency
6. Statistical and cost/benefit analysis was flawed and inaccurate and inappropriately undervalued human life and health by putting expenses of providing improved safety on a par with lost lives.
7. Conspiracy of silence regarding deaths due to preventable vehicle violence with the result that too often too little was done too late to save lives.
8. Solutions did not always take into account all aspects of the system, including the crashworthiness of the passenger vehicle or the potential of energy absorption on the large truck.
9. A blaming the victim attitude too often overshadowed the responsibility of the industry to take action and find ways to make trucks safer to be on the road in order to protect vulnerable road users.
10. Confusion about how to solve the problem, along with other factors, may have contributed to inertia to do anything about it.
11. Multiple layers of responsibility has too easily led to No One taking responsibility. (GM Nod)
12. For whatever reason, there have been few R & D resources devoted to this issue.
13. Data has been limited or hidden, partially due to misunderstanding of the problem and lack of training for enforcement officials to identify the role of underride in truck crashes.
14. Isolated incidents of underride may have hidden the immensity of this obscure tragedy.
15. Skepticism about the possibility of technologically and practically feasible solutions has been an obstacle to wholehearted commitment to necessary R & D.
16. Concerns about potential liability may have caused resistance to acknowledge the issue.
17. The competitive nature of the industry may have contributed to a lack of cooperative effort to deal with a deadly design.

I wrote that while sitting outside the Duke Integrative Medicine Center. When I finished, I went inside and picked up a book called, Hippocrates’ Shadow, which talks about what happens in the medical field when the problems of ineffective treatments are not openly discussed. This phrase jumped out at me: “With full knowledge and ample evidence that it doesn’t work, we do it anyway.” (by David H. Newman, MD, p. 25) And the author referred to one of the reasons that the problems don’t get addressed being, “a culture of conformity, inertia, and malpractice paranoia.” Well said. . .

In fact, the development of a COMPREHENSIVE approach to taking care of the truck underride problem was probably first planted in my mind at the Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, with the suggestion of a member of the trucking industry.

Read about that here, including the subsequent actions that resulted in a Comprehensive Underride Consensus Petition which a group of us submitted to Secretary Foxx at DOT on September 23, 2016, and upon which the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 is based.

It is not necessarily the initial collision in a truck/passenger vehicle crash which kills but the Second Collision which occurs. In fact, it is quite possible that, of the over 4,000 truck crash deaths which occur every year, many of them could be prevented if adequate comprehensive underride protection were on every single truck.

Underride protection does not prevent a collision but it can prevent the violent injuries and deaths which occur from the Second Collision of the truck into the Passenger Compartment.

In contrast to a fragmented approach, this is my suggestion for approaching the problem of truck underride:


Upon reflection, it is my belief that the system for arriving at regulations has been working harder to protect the industry from liability  and responsibility than to protect road users from harm. Furthermore, this has led to a non-transparent process for arriving at appropriate and effective safety measures.

In stark contrast, the crafting of this bill, the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017, was based upon extensive research and the gathering of experts and interested parties over the last four years,

These discussions involved trucking industry representatives, including Ted Scott, VP of Engineering for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), and Gary Fenton, who is VP of Engineering for Stoughton Trailers and Chairman of the Engineering Committee for the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA). Participants also have included engineering experts from universities, international experts in truck underride, and two engineers who have designed side guards which have recently been successfully tested.

In my humble opinion, the interests of this country would best be served if this group would be formally recognized and commissioned to work with NHTSA and to develop the specifications for the final comprehensive underride protection rule. Why re-invent the wheel? Why delay the process any longer than necessary? Wasted time translates into more unnecessary death and life-long grief.


The COUP truck safety certification program (modeled after the Transport for London FORS) could also be integrated into the comprehensive underride protection vision/scenario/strategy/bill:

COUP (Certification Of Underride Protection). In order to get fully certified, a trucking company would have to get an award in each aspect of underride protection, including:

  1. Rear (Already introduced by the IIHS with their recent presentation of a ToughGuard award to five trailer manufacturers)
  2. Front
  3. Side
  4. Maintenance of underride devices (annual inspection and training in how to do pre-trip inspections of the devices)
  5. Training for drivers in what to do and not do in terms of parking and U-turns
  6. Other (whatever I am forgetting right now — like the protection of all vulnerable road users)

This would be required for ALL trucks, including Single Unit Trucks (Straight, Box).

I would like to add this aspect to the drafted bill, along with a mandate for establishment of a Committee of Experts to Oversee This.

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