Category Archives: Truck Safety

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:  https://www.facebook.com/WUSA9/videos/10156426907094778/

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. http://airflowdeflector.com/home/airflow-2/
  3. Aaron Kiefer’s TrailerGuard system weighs closer to 300 lbs (.375% of 80,000 lbs.).: https://www.collisionsafetyconsulting.com/
  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

    http://annaleahmary.com/2016/05/truck-trailer-manufacturers-assn-reminds-nhtsa-side-guards-are-not-cost-effective-says-who/:  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.  http://annaleahmary.com/2017/02/perfect-opportunity-to-transform-supertruck-into-an-esv-to-advance-underride-protection-dot-doe/ and http://annaleahmary.com/2017/02/doe-pours-millions-into-supertruck-fuel-savings-research-projects-0-devoted-to-side-underride-protection/
  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: http://www.truckinginfo.com/channel/fleet-management/news/story/2017/06/house-bill-would-repeal-heavy-truck-federal-excise-tax.aspx and http://annaleahmary.com/2017/06/would-this-truck-tax-savings-cover-cost-of-comprehensive-underride-protection-for-a-winwin-solution/
  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

 

 

Just How Far Have We Come In The 50 Years Since Jayne Mansfield’s Death By Truck Underride?

June 29 marked the 50th anniversary of Jayne Mansfield’s death by underride. The world knew in 1967 — if it didn’t know it before — about the terrible geometric mismatch between a car and a truck which allowed a car to ride under a truck upon collision.

In those 50 years, how many technological problems have we solved? And yet why have we been unable to solve the problem of truck underride and stem the tide of preventable, horrific, and senseless underride tragedies?

Sure we have made some headway — six trailer manufacturers have upgraded their rear underride guards and there are promising side guard solutions with one of them recently tested by the IIHS. Some manufacturers even have retrofit kits available to replace weak rear guards on existing trailers.

Yet it is well known that more could be done, but hasn’t. And why is that? Why have we been so slow to solve this problem? There are many reasons which could be cited. But the facts are the facts. People are still dying (or suffering catastrophic injuries) at an alarming rate from underride and we are seemingly content to let it continue or address it at a snail’s pace.

Not me. I am not content to take it slow and easy — not when the result is that more people will die because we didn’t act sooner. When we could have.

Take front underride or override for example. Front underride protection is one of the components we are asking for in the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017 (RAMCUP). People are dying due to lack of adequate front underride protection — just like they are on the sides and rear of trucks.

In Europe, they have requirements to protect against this. Not in the U.S. So what are we waiting for? Well, that’s a good question.

Do we wait until we can reinvent the wheel here and figure it out for ourselves with years of research? Or do we speed up the process by learning from others and encouraging collaboration among relevant stakeholders?

Do we include it in the congressional mandate to the Department of Transportation and ask them to figure it out sooner rather than later? Or do we ask them to solve the side guard problem now and then later on, down the road at some unspecified time in the future, we’ll address the need for front protection?

Well, Lois Durso and I took the bull by the horn and said: We’re sick & tired of waiting. People are dying from underride no matter what part of the truck they are unfortunate enough to collide with. We need to solve every kind of underride problem and we are going to include it all in one big comprehensive piece of legislation. Because it is needed. Because it is long-overdue.

Previous posts on Front Underride Protection:

Don’t re-invent the wheel; establish a formal Committee On Underride Protection (COUP) to oversee the development of recommendations for NHTSA underride regulations.

See the history of underride rulemaking as compiled by IIHS and displayed at the first Underride Roundtable on May 5, 2016, held at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center:

From the RAMCUP bill: 

(d) UNDERRIDE PROTECTION ON THE FRONT OF LARGE TRUCKS
Include front override protection in conformance with the following
specifications:
(1) An EU requirement was introduced in 2000 based on ECE Regulation
93 requiring mandatory rigid front underrun protection defining a rigid
front underrun protection system for trucks with a gross weight over 3.5
tonnes Directive 2000/40/EEC. Studies performed by EEVC WG 14 have
shown that passenger cars can ‘survive’ a frontal truck collision with a
relative speed of 75 km/h if the truck is equipped with an energy absorbing               underrun protection system. Furthermore, these systems could reduce
about 1,176 deaths and 23,660 seriously injured car occupants in Europe
per year. Research shows that the benefits of a mandatory specification for
energy absorbing front underrun protection would exceed the costs, even if
the safety effect of these measures was as low as 5%. European
Commission; Front Underrun Protection Systems [Note: 75 kmh = 46.6028
mph]
(2) Front guards must have 3 levels of resistance; soft front for pedestrians
and cyclists, middle area must be softer than the partner vehicle in crashes
and able to absorb energy such as through crush, and rear area must be
strong and stiff enough to resist underride and rotate high-speed vehicles
away from the truck. Extend the front guard from the truck 600 mm (2 feet) to
give room for a 500 mm (1.6 feet) radius curve to deflect crash partners
including VRU and cars. The extra 600 mm should give 102 km/h or (63 mph)
of protection which would exceed a general goal of 60 mph (100 km/h) — an
average speed for highway crashes in the real world.
(3) NHTSA shall immediately issue an RFP to identify the appropriate
requirements for a front underrun protection standard.

ECE No. 93 FRONT UNDERRUN PROTECTION

Design and Optimization of Front Underrun Protection Device

https://ec.europa.eu/transport/road_safety/specialist/knowledge/vehicle/safety_design_needs/heavy_goods_vehicles_en

Don’t you think that enough is enough?! Let’s make it a priority to tackle the whole underride problem post haste! If we don’t (knowing what we now know), then who should we hold responsible for the thousands of people who will most surely die from preventable underride?

No compromise. Too many have already paid the price for 50 years of compromise.