Grateful for commitment to Underride Prevention R & D, but is it enough?

I am very grateful for the seemingly sincere commitment to research and development of underride prevention technology on the part of engineers whom I have met in these last four years. I often thank them personally. And, as I participate in crash testing and discuss the outcome of the testing with them, I gain an appreciation of the complexity of the problem.

But I have to ask myself if it is enough, if it is made the priority that solutions to save lives could and should be given. How much faster could we start making truck crashes more survivable if we put our mind to it?

I was reflecting last night on the three crash tests which I viewed in the last week in three different states. They involved the testing of underride prevention technology designed by three different engineering teams. All of a sudden, the question popped into my head, “How much faster would we be able to get effective underride solutions available to install on trucks if everybody that is working on the problem — or even thinking about it — would truly be collaborating?”

It is totally ridiculous that we allow marketplace competition to inhibit communication and slow down the process. Isn’t it, or is it just me? How many more lives could be saved if we more effectively put our heads together?

That was the original idea when we conceived of the Underride Roundtable.  Are we willing to do it like it’s never been done before and make this a joint effort?

Let’s follow the lead of medical researchers:

One of the most important ways the CMTA accelerates the research process is by putting together teams of top scientists recruited from an international body of scientific and clinical Key Opinion Leaders in CMT. The STAR program’s unique character stems from the willingness of the scientists to come together to advance CMT research collaboratively, sharing and communicating ideas, discoveries and research findings.

The CMTA’s funding and operations focus is on translational research that will lead as directly as possible to therapeutic treatments of CMT.  Truck Industry Could Take a Cue From Collaborative Medical Research Strategy

People are counting on it — whether they know it or not — because every day we delay is costly . . .

Afterthought: Why would manufacturers & engineers not collaborate on underride research?

 

Imagine if engineers collaborated to create effective underride solutions!

I was reflecting tonight on the three crash tests which I viewed in less than seven days in three different states with underride prevention technology designed by three different engineering teams. All of a sudden, the question popped into my head, “How much faster would we be able to get effective underride solutions available to install on trucks if everybody that is working on the problem — or even thinking about it — would truly be collaborating?”

It is totally ridiculous that we allow marketplace competition to inhibit communication and slow down the process. How many more lives could be saved if we more effectively put our heads together?

That was the original idea when we conceived of the Underride Roundtable.  Are we willing to do it like it’s never been done before and make this a joint effort?

Previous post on a similar topic: Urgent Underride Discussion of Deceleration Forces/High Speeds. Don’t Dawdle.

Why would a stronger rear underride guard be offered as optional on new trailers?!

When a stronger more effective rear underride guard has been designed by a manufacturer, why would they offer it as optional rather than standard on their new trailers?! And we’re talking about an insignificant increase in cost for the improved guard, according to one guard engineer.

For that matter, why do we offer any proven safety equipment as optional on vehicles?

Do we want people to die?

People get killed in collisions with single unit trucks (EXEMPT from underride stds.).

People (real living people, who left home not expecting to die) get killed from crashing into single unit trucks as well as tractor-trailers. Like these two young men in New York this week: 2 Killed In Crash Involving Garbage Truck, Car In Westchester County
 So why are these trucks exempt from underride regulations?
STOP all Underrides! #stopunderrides

No one needs to die this way.

Find out how your state fares on truck underride deaths from 1994 through 2015. There is quite a range of numbers. But whether you live in Hawaii  — which reported 1 underride fatality in that time period —  or California — which reported 426 people killed because a large truck entered their occupant space during a collision between the truck and a passenger vehicle,  it’s too many in my book.

And remember, Death by Underride is definitely undercounted — some crash report forms don’t even have a check box for underride. And underride can happen to anyone at anytime and anywhere.

Underride Fatality Data from FARS by State

Let’s STOP Underrides!

The Retrofit Question: Should we add underride protection to existing trucks OR decide to let people die?

Some might be hesitant about the comprehensive underride protection legislation mainly out of concern over the Retrofitting Requirement of the STOP Underrides! Bill.

Ask me if I would be willing to compromise and take out the retrofit requirement! How many people might die as a result? The trailer which we crashed into is probably still on the road with a weak rear underride guard. Along with millions of others.

Why is it that they are being allowed to “get away with murder” just because it will cost the industry some money to strengthen these rear guards?

Just imagine for a moment that somebody had done something in 2008 to introduce a Comprehensive Underride Protection Bill. But let’s say that they decided not to require retrofitting;  so only new trailers would be improved starting in perhaps 2012.

So the Great Dane trailer built in 2007, which we crashed into on May 4, 2013, would not have been required to be retrofitted. It would have been left with its original rear underride guard which was designed to meet the 1998 federal (current) standard and, therefore, would have been weak and ineffective.

My daughters still would have been killed! They would not have been protected from Death by Underride — despite the fact that a solution would have existed which might have prevented their untimely deaths.

So, ask me again. . . “Do you want to compromise and take the retrofit requirement out of the STOP Underrides! Bill?” What do you think?

After all, we have decades of deaths and neglect to make up.

How Does Your State Fare In Underride Deaths?

Find out how your state fares on truck underride deaths from 1994 through 2015. There is quite a range of numbers. But whether you live in Hawaii  — which reported 1 underride fatality in that time period —  or California — which reported 426 people killed because a large truck entered their occupant space during a collision between the truck and a passenger vehicle,  it’s too many in my book.

And remember, Death by Underride is definitely undercounted — some crash report forms don’t even have a check box for underride. And underride can happen to anyone at anytime and anywhere.

Underride Fatality Data from FARS by State

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

PV Fatalities in Truck Crashes 2015 per IIHS

PVEH_LRGTRK_UNDERRIDE_FATS_STATE_2015B

Every day we delay, more people will die from truck underride. STOP Underrides!

Progress is being made on the prevention of truck underride tragedies. But we have a long way to go before comprehensive underride protection is on every truck on the road. That is why we are working hard on every front to raise awareness of the century-old underride problem — along with proven and promising solutions.

But not everyone seems to get the sense of urgency which drives us to insistently call for resolution of this issue via the STOP Underrides! Bill posthaste. That’s why I decided to create this simple graphic to drive home the point that the price we pay, as a result of our delay in taking meaningful action, is too costly to accept any further meaningless excuses:

Based on analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety of NHTSA’s truck crash fatality statistics (FARS), this graphic reflects the 600 truck/car collisions which annually occur, on average, at the sides and rear of large trucks  — leaving out front collisions: potential underride tragedies which we want to prevent with the STOP Underrides! Bill.

Some years ago, I noticed the way that the prophet Daniel, in Daniel 9, got on his knees and repented on behalf of his people. . . God’s people, for wrongdoing that he was not directly responsible for — appealing to God to act mercifully.

This week, I thought of that again and determined to stand in the stead of all those who have turned their backs to the underride problem — unknowingly or not. Perhaps we all play some part in not getting to the bottom of those terrible tragedies.

In any case, on behalf of all those who have not been held accountable, I repent of our country’s indifference to this preventable highway carnage. I ask the Lord to forgive our callous attitude, misplaced priorities, and neglect. May He stir up a sense of urgency that we might all take appropriate action and work together more creatively and effectively.

What are we waiting for?! Let’s get on with it! We’ve got people counting on us — whether they know it or not.

 

Understanding Underride VIII: Making the Case for Comprehensive Underride Protection Legislation

The basic problem of truck underride is the fact that there is a geometric mismatch between the large trucks and the smaller passenger vehicles. Crush zones are structural areas in a vehicle that are designed to absorb energy upon impact in a predictable way. However, upon collision of a passenger vehicle with a truck, there is no opportunity for engagement of the passenger vehicle crush/crumple zone with a solid portion of the truck.

The result? The crashworthiness of the passenger vehicle is not initiated. The car is allowed to go under the truck and the first point of impact is in the Passenger Occupant Space. The passengers are left vulnerable to horrific injuries and violent deaths.

In fact, although underride deaths are vastly underreported and undercounted, FARS data from the NHTSA show that hundreds of people die every year from truck underride passenger compartment intrusion (PCI). NHTSA reported 4,006 underride deaths from 1994 to 2014.

The rear underride guards, which are installed on semi-trailers, are supposed to prevent underride. But the IIHS, in 2011 and 2013, conducted crash testing which proved that the guards of eight major trailer manufacturers, though designed the meet the 1998 federal standard, too often fail. Subsequently, improved rear underride guards and side guards have been crash tested by the IIHS; crash dummies emerge with survivable results.

The majority of the large trucks on the road either have weak, ineffective rear underride guards – even though they meet the current federal standard – or none at all (as in the case of exempt single-unit trucks) or improperly maintained rear guards (initially known as ICC bumpers, later as Mansfield bars, or sometimes as Rear Impact Guards or RIGs). In addition, there is currently no federal requirement for commercial motor vehicles to have side guards – despite the fact that there is normally 4 feet between the bottom of the trailer and the road. And, although Europe has standards for Front Underrun Protection, the U.S. does not.

There were 340,000 large trucks manufactured in 2015. The majority of those have weak rear guards and no side guards. Volvo Trucks produces tractors with front underride protection in Europe but not on their North American trucks. There are nearly 2 million semi trucks in operation in the U.S. and around 5.6 million semi trailers. These drive around every day on our roads putting travelers at risk of Death by Underride.

The truck industry has known about the problem of underride for over a century. In fact, a patent was filed for a side guard in 1913. In response to the rear underride death of actress Jayne Mansfield in 1967, we saw some improvement in rear underride protection with a 1998 standard – although you will notice that that took 31 years to achieve and it still falls short of what is technologically possible some 50 years after her death.

The government is also well aware of the side underride problem. On March 19, 1969, the FHWA indicated in the Federal Register, in an analysis on rear underride rulemaking, that they intended to extend underride protection to the sides of large trucks after further studies. However, DOT has not done so and the industry – despite some voluntary improvement in response to appeals from victim families armed with information on the IIHS crash testing – has not shown an ability or willingness to solve this problem on their own.

As David Ward recently said, at the Road to Zero Coalition October 2017 quarterly meeting, there will always be a strong need for regulation and/or fiscal incentives to break market failure. Only then will we see 100% adoption of comprehensive underride protection. In fact, trailer manufacturers have said that a mandate would lift the burden from them; they would no longer have to persuade their customers to buy safer trailers.

The underride problem has been documented in numerous studies. The IIHS petitioned NHTSA in 2011 and the NTSB made recommendations in April 2014 that NHTSA initiate underride rulemaking to address safety vulnerabilities. The Volpe National Transportation Systems Center has recognized the problem and has worked with numerous Vision Zero Cities to install side guards on city trucks in order to protect Vulnerable Road Users.

A comprehensive underride protection rule, STOP Underrides!  because it will include single-unit trucks — will make it easier for cities throughout the U.S. to protect vulnerable road users. Every truck that drives on their streets will be equipped with comprehensive underride protection – a significant victory in the battle to create safer mobility for pedestrians, cyclists, and motorcyclists, as well as passenger vehicles.

With comprehensive underride protection installed on the entire large truck fleet, we should see a significant decrease in the 4,000 truck crash fatalities/year (4,713 in 2016), along with a major reduction in debilitating injuries. Truck crashes can be made more survivable.

Or do we want to continue to allow people to die?

Understanding Underride I to VIII: A Source of Helpful Information on Truck Underride

In order to gain a basic understanding of the deadly but preventable truck underride problem, a compilation of helpful resources is provided below.

A complete list of posts on Understanding Underride can be found here:

WUSA9 recently began an extensive investigation into truck underride. The segments which have already aired are listed here. They plan to shed light on the problem until it is adequately addressed in this country.  See all of the videos here: WUSA9 Underride Series Sheds Light on Deadly Truck Underride Tragedies & Solutions

The STOP Underrides! Act of 2017 has been drafted by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. She is working with Congressman Steve Cohen, who will be drafting a House Companion Measure.  They are both seeking Republican co-leads for this long-overdue, life-saving legislation.

On October 12, 2017, staff from Congressional Offices gathered to hear presentations from five experts on the topic of truck underride to better understand the need for the STOP Underrides! bill. The presentations were followed by a question & answer period as legislative staff sought to understand the problem and solutions of deadly but preventable underride crashes.

The presentations can be found here: Underride Briefing on The Hill; Video Excerpts of Panel Discussion on October 12

Another series of posts on underride is titled Underride 101:

Truck Underride 101: Discussion Topics

I. When Will We Tackle Truck Underride?

Truck Underride 101: I. When Will We Tackle Truck Underride?

II. Why Comprehensive Underride Protection? 

Truck Underride 101: II. Why Comprehensive Underride Protection?

III. Cost Benefit Analysis, Underride Rulemaking, and Vision Zero

 Truck Underride 101: Part III. Cost Benefit Analysis, Underride Rulemaking, and Vision Zero

IV. Win/Win

Truck Underride 101: Part IV Win/Win

V. Bipartisan Discussion of Legislative Strategy

Truck Underride 101: Part V. Bipartisan Discussion of Legislative Strategy