Monthly Archives: July 2017

“Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws”

WUSA9 reports that Senator Schumer has joined our call for stronger underride laws.

WASHINGTON, DC (WUSA9) – Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, (D-N.Y.) is launching a major effort to improve critical safety features on semi-trailers that could save hundreds of lives on U.S. highways.

The WUSA9 Special Assignment Unit has reported on the issue for weeks.

On Friday, Sen. Schumer called on the federal government to update and upgrade safety standards by requiring trucks be equipped with energy-absorbing rear underride guards.

Schumer is also calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require trucks be equipped with side underride guards. He also asks for new research into front underride guard standards. . . 

Watch their news report here: Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws

After learning of yet another terrible side underride tragedy earlier this month in New York, we reached out to NY legislators asking them to support this cause.

How sad it is that it takes tragedies like these to bring about change. How hopeful I am that we are moving quickly to seeing comprehensive underride protection become a reality. Let’s do this!

Just in: Truck Underride Statistics by State From NHTSA & IIHS

Yesterday I contacted NHTSA and IIHS and asked them if they would be able to look at their data on underride deaths and break them out by State. They both graciously made it a priority and created some new charts, graphs, and a map.

The pdf from NHTSA has data taken from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), by which NHTSA collects information on fatal crashes from each state. This extensive chart covers the time period of 1994 to 2015, showing underride deaths when the initial collision was at the front, side, and rear of trailers — first for the country, followed by a similar format for each state. Numbers are shown one year at a time and then totaled:

Passenger Vehicle Underride Fatalities by State, 1994-2015, by NHTSA

Please remember that it is well-known that underride deaths are under-counted in these charts. In fact, Lois Durso and I both have found that our daughters deaths are not accurately reported in these charts.

We also received a graph of underride deaths by State for 2015 from Matt Brumbelow at the IIHS. Specifically, these are “2015 Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in 2-vehicle crashes with tractor-trailers.”

Matt asked me to explain further, “that 2015 is still the latest year of data that NHTSA has released.  Also, that while not all these crashes will have involved underride, our estimates based on other studies is that underride occurs in 80-90% of tractor-trailer rear and side crashes with serious/fatal injuries.”

PV Fatalities in Truck Crashes 2015 per IIHS

U.S. Map PV Fatalities Truck Crashes in 2015 per IIHS

I hope that these visual and informative tools will aid us, as a nation, in addressing this tragic but preventable public health problem.

WUSA9 recently launched a three-part series on truck underride. More to come

WUSA9 recently launched a series on truck underride.
  1. Introduction by Eric Flack: A danger on the highway. . .
  2. Part 1 aired on July 13, Mothers fight for tougher tractor trailer laws after daughters die in underride crashes”
  3. Part 2 aired on July 14, “Cost of a Life,” or “How much is your life worth?”  and
  4. Part 3 aired on Tuesday, July 18, “Truck trailer rear guard rules have huge holes, safety experts say” 
  5. Special Response to Comments on Social Media, July 19, “Rear underride accidents explained”
  6. Friday, July 21: “Powerful Senator joins calls for stronger semi-trailer underride guard laws”

WUSA9 Truck Underride Series: Part 2, Special Assignment Unit: Cost of a Life

Part 2 of the truck underride series aired on Friday, July 14, on WUSA9:  Special Assignment Unit: Cost of a Life

Here is the accompanying article on their website:  How much is your life worth?

Video for Parts 1 & 2 can be found here: Mothers fight for tougher tractor trailer laws after daughters die in underride crash

WUSA9 Truck Underride Series, Part 1: 3 young girls lives cut short in truck underride crashes

Last night, Eric Flack, investigative reporter with WUSA9 in Washington, D.C., began the first part of a series of broadcasts on truck underride. Part 2 will air Friday night, July 14, at 11 p.m.

See last night’s broadcast here: 3 Young girls lives cut short in truck underride crashes

Facebook Livestream Introduction last night:

After looking at some of the comments on the WUSA9 Facebook page, I realized that there were many truck drivers who were complaining about the fact that many car drivers aren’t paying attention or driving safely around trucks. While that may be true, it bothered me that they don’t seem to get that we are not talking about who caused the crash. We are talking about preventing a collision from turning into an underride tragedy.

The problem is that, possibly due to their perception of the issue, the truck drivers get upset because they fear the loss of their livelihood as a result of the cost of installing safety devices. Then they lobby Congress who worries about their campaign contributions and re-election. On top of that, the cost/benefit analysis is skewed and the protection does not get put on decade after decade.

There seems to be an inadequate grasp of the concept that we are not talking here about blame for the collision itself. We are talking about what Dr. Haddon called the “Second Collision”  — what the body collides with after the initial collision — in this case because the underride causes the truck to enter the passenger occupant space (known as Passenger Compartment Intrusion or PCI), leading to catastrophic injuries.

 Underride protective devices can be compared to airbags and seat belts — all of them being passive restraint devices/systems. Should we make the decision to not use airbags and seat belts because, really, people just need to pay more attention and drive better?

A Passive Restraint System is defined in one of the following ways:

  • A system that is constantly operating while a driver sits inside the automobile and the vehicle is in motion
  • A system that restrains the individuals within from moving if a collision occurs
  • A system which deploys automatically without any intentional action having to be undertaken by any of the individual(s) inside of the vehicle

Comprehensive Underride Protection is designed to prevent the Second Collision of the body with the truck. Without the CUP, the crush zone of the car and the other passive restraint devices (airbags and seat belts) don’t have a chance to go to work for us.

Yesterday, I posted these thoughts in response to industry concerns (costs) about underride legislation: Should the trucking industry be concerned about underride legislation?

Recent article in support of adding side guards: Underride crashes aren’t new. Hollywood starlet Jayne Mansfield famously died in such a crash a half-century ago (June 28, 1967 to be exact). And the technology to prevent them, including side underrides, is now well proven. The only real obstacle is whether the nation’s elected leaders in Washington are willing to require the safety upgrade despite trucking industry opposition. Truck trailers can (easily) be made safer, Baltimore Sun, July 14, 2017

The truth of the matter is that the trucking industry and the government have been well aware of these problems for decades and yet have not relentlessly pursued an effective solution. Can we hope that this will change? If not, shame on them.

How many people have to die before they do something?

The Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017:  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover

Will Sec. of Trans. act now to raise trucking minimum liability? After all, it’s only been 34 yrs.

Jerry and I submitted a petition to Secretary Chao on June 13, 2017, asking her to act with her administrative authority to immediately sign an increase to trucking minimum liability insurance. She has 180 days to respond. Will she?

After all, the current minimum liability level was only set 34 years ago.

Trucking Minimum Liability Petition Letter to Secretary Chao from Jerry and Marianne Karth

Demand for Due Diligence FMCSA Action on Trucking Minimum Liability

See in-depth article by Fair Warning on this issue: Feds Reject Insurance Hike for Big-Rigs, Pleasing Independent Truckers, Rankling Safety Advocates, By  on July 13, 2017

Previous Posts on Minimum Liability Insurance Issue

Korea: “Safety systems must be installed on commercial vehicles even though it comes with a high price tag,”

In response to deadly crashes involving commercial motor vehicles, the Korean government is moving to mandate the installation of Forward Collision Warning Systems in buses and large trucks.

To tackle the issue of accidents cause by commercial vehicles, the ruling Democratic Party of Korea has pitched mandating large trucks and buses have the Autonomous Emergency Braking System and Lane Departure Warning System by August last year.

“Accidents involving large size buses and trucks are more deadly than passenger cars. Safety systems must be installed commercial vehicles even though it comes with a high price tag,” said Kim Pil-soo, a professor of automotive engineering at Daelim University. Korea pushes for safety features in commerical vehicles

We could take a cue from this attitude and action here in the U.S. After all, we have our fair share of deadly crashes involving trucks — particularly in construction zones and in conditions where traffic slows and large vehicles, which take longer to come to a stop, all too easily and too often, become unintended weapons causing mass destruction and unexpected Death By Motor Vehicle.

Just look at some of the recent deadly crashes:

If we can do something to reduce these crashes, should we? And, while we’re at it, how about adding comprehensive underride protection, to reduce the deaths and catastrophic injuries which occur with preventable underride?

And on another note: I still think that a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman could be instrumental in addressing these and other traffic safety issues more effectively.

WUSA9 Takes note of 2 moms who lost 3 daughters to truck underride tragedies. Thursday at 11 p.m.

WUSA9 followed us around on The Hill and then interviewed us when we were in DC in June. They will be launching a series on truck underride starting Thursday, July 13, at 11 p.m.

Mothers fight for tougher tractor trailer laws after daughters die in underride crashes, Eric Flack, Erin Van der Bellen and Elizabeth Jia, WUSA 12:18 PM. EDT July 12, 2017

Should the trucking industry be concerned about underride legislation?

After a phone call with a congressman’s office the other day, I thought that it would be a good idea to put the question out on the table for some honest conversation: What is it going to cost the trucking industry to install effective comprehensive underride protection?

Without going into the exact cost/truck, here are some of my observations about the impact of a comprehensive underride protection mandate:

  1. Fuel savings from combining side skirt and side guard can be significant. The AngelWing side guard has already had SmartWay testing.
  2. Current weight of AngelWing is 800 lbs. and a very small percentage of 80,000 lb. limit–1%. They plan on working to decrease that weight.
  3. Aaron Kiefer’s TrailerGuard system weighs closer to 300 lbs (.375% of 80,000 lbs.).:
  4. In an off the record phone conversation with a trailer manufacturer CEO  a month or so ago, he told me that he (as a trailer manufacturer) will welcome a mandate because it will take the burden off of the manufacturer to have to persuade their customers to put on underride safety equipment.
  5. When we met with a congressman a few weeks ago (who also holds a CDL), he suggested a possible credit at weigh stations for extra weight of side guards.
  6. In the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association TTMA letter to NHTSA on May 13, 2016

    I was encouraged by the closing paragraph of the TTMA letter to NHTSA:

    TTMA would support the implementation of side guards if they ever become justified and technologically feasible. We continue to support the NHTSA review of Petitioners’ requests and stand ready to partner in the development of justified and feasible designs if they possibly emerge. Jeff Simms, President  TTMA_Side_Impact_Main_Comment_2016-05-13TTMA_Side_impact_Exhibits_A-D_2016-05-13

  7. IIHS just tested the 6th major manufacturer’s improved rear guard. They have offered to test manufacturer’s side guards. Two have said they are working on a design.
  8. The industry is responding, but pressure is still needed to address the problem decisively, comprehensively, and quickly. Time is of the essence to save lives. And that includes retrofitting of existing trucks.
  9. Fuel savings from trucks with side skirts/guards. Could be $20,000/yr. and
  10. Some have estimated a 2 yr. ROI for side guards.
  11. Congressman LaMalfa proposed a tax repeal for purchase of new trucks. This could help offset the costs:  the 12-percent Federal retail excise tax routinely adds between $12,000 and $22,000 to the cost of a heavy truck, tractor, or trailer. Read about it here: and
  12. With proven effective side guards, there will be a new de facto standard. If trucking companies experience a collision with an underride death, the liability could put smaller companies out of business. Effective comprehensive underride protection can prevent these catastrophic outcomes to many truck crashes which end in life-changing tragedies for more than just the victim.
  13. Effective underride protection is more likely to result in a truck which can be used more quickly after a collision.
  14. Stoughton Trailers was able to produce a more effective rear guard on new trucks with no added cost or weight penalty to their customers.
  15. What about a tax credit for early adopters of underride technology before the compliance date?
  16. Truck Underride 101: Part IV Win/Win

Sounds to me like comprehensive underride protection would be a win/win situation. What do you think?

The Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017:  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover




Underride crash in NY this week kills 4; Ball’s in your court, Congress, to end these preventable tragedies.

Yet another tragic side underride crash occurred in New York this week. Could crash avoidance technology have prevented the collisions of two cars into the side of a jack-knifed milk tanker? Perhaps.

Could comprehensive underride protection — including side guards — have prevented the tragic outcome of 4 lives abruptly ended? Probably.

When will we take action to mandate and install effective underride protection around every part of large trucks to end these preventable tragedies? The ball’s in your court, Congress.

Let’s get The Roya, AnnaLeah and Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 introduced and passed. Post haste. No more of this senseless highway carnage.

Ready-to-introduce bill:  RAMCUP Draft 15 with Cover