Tag Archives: cost benefit analysis

DOT & OMB: Are you using CEA or CBA rulemaking? Road to Zero requires Vision Zero Rulemaking

I have a simple request for the Department of Transportation and the Office of Management & Budget/OIRA:

  1. Please let me know if you are using Cost Effectiveness Analysis or Cost Benefit Analysis.
  2. And, please be transparent by telling me what your formula is. What are your parameters?
  3. And, please sit down with us and have a face to face conversation about this.

Unless you use truly Vision Zero rulemaking, the Road to Zero Coalition’s goal will most probably fall short.

Cost.Benefit Analysis

“Money At Root of Takata’s Tragic History”

Talking about SAFETY becomes meaningless when no one really values human life over making a profit. When will we get that and say that we have had enough?

Latest email from Lou Lombardo:

Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:

NY Times publishes an excellent article on victims of vehicle violence due to air bag defects known for more than a decade.

“In the late 1990s, General Motors got an unexpected and enticing offer. A little-known Japanese supplier, Takata, had designed a much cheaper automotive airbag.

G.M. turned to its airbag supplier — the Swedish-American company Autoliv — and asked it to match the cheaper design or risk losing the automaker’s business, according to Linda Rink, who was a senior scientist at Autoliv assigned to the G.M. account at the time.

But when Autoliv’s scientists studied the Takata airbag, they found that it relied on a dangerously volatile compound in its inflater, a critical part that causes the airbag to expand.

“We just said, ‘No, we can’t do it. We’re not going to use it,’” said Robert Taylor, Autoliv’s head chemist until 2010.

Today, that compound is at the heart of the largest automotive safety recall in history. At least 14 people have been killed and more than 100 have been injured by faulty inflaters made by Takata. More than 100 million of its airbags have been installed in cars in the United States by General Motors and 16 other automakers.

Details of G.M.’s decision-making process almost 20 years ago, which has not been reported previously, suggest that a quest for savings of just a few dollars per airbag compromised a critical safety device, resulting in passenger deaths. The findings also indicate that automakers played a far more active role in the prelude to the crisis: Rather than being the victims of Takata’s missteps, automakers pressed their suppliers to put cost before all else.”

NY Times also publishes a useful article on what consumers can and should know and do.

“Defective airbags made by Takata have been tied to at least 14 deaths and more than 100 injuries. The ensuing recall — the largest in automotive history — has turned out to be messy, confusing and frustrating for car owners.”


These stories need to be widely shared.  They give us all useful information on the root of vehicle violence: money.

Life & Death11wjd2
What can the American people do about this?
Safety is not a priority 002

Truck Underride Tragedies Need to End; Enough is enough!

I recently asked DOT for a breakdown of truck underride deaths by type: front, side, and rear. Yesterday, they sent a chart of Underride Fatalities from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS)–taken from crash reports submitted to DOT:

From 1994 to 2014, this is the breakdown of Deaths by Underride:

Collision at Front of the Truck: 625

Collision at Side of the Truck: 1534

Collision at Rear of the Truck: 1715

Collision Site Unknown: 132

Total Underride Deaths Reported: 4,006

Truck Underride Deaths by TYPE 1994-2014

Of course, we need to remember that these figures do not include all underride deaths, as it is well-known that they are commonly under-reported. In fact, this chart does not include underride crashes which happened when the truck was parked. When we include those types of crashes, the FARS records yield 5,081 underride deaths in that same time period.

Truck Underride Fatalities, 1994-2014

I have known for some time that there are many deaths due to side underride crashes. But to find out that there are almost as many deaths from side underride as rear underride?! How can NHTSA require rear underride guards and yet not mandate side underride guards? How can they possibly justify that? (Some kind of convoluted cost/benefit analysis, I suppose.) And why are trucks even sold without side guards?

The question must be asked: Whom shall we hold responsible for those 4,006+ deaths (and those not reported as underride deaths), along with the people who died before 1994? The government? The trucking industry? Ourselves for letting it happen in our ignorance or apathy? All of us?

And what about now–today? Will we hold those, who have the authority to act, accountable to do the right thing? Will we demand that they move ahead quickly to correct this tragic and unimaginable situation? Will we make sure that all trucks have the best possible underride protection?



our mangled Crown Vic on May 4, 2013

Life & DeathIf only

Sign our petition to NHTSA to initiate rulemaking on side guards: Mandate Side Guards On Large Trucks To End Deadly Side Underride Crashes

Demand that we act compassionately to preserve human life rather than protect profit. Otherwise, if we knowingly allow this to continue unabated, will we all be accessories to murder?

Two of the thousands we have lost:


Who has the right to block efforts to end Preventable Death by Underride?

I just got back from an errand. Something triggered a memory of AnnaLeah & Mary. I think that it was driving by a park here in Rocky Mount to which Mary and AnnaLeah never got to go. We had lived here less than a year before the crash.

It made me wonder (as I do so often) what they might be doing right now. How  might their lives have unfolded?

All my anger poured out, about how they have been cheated and how wrong it all is. I was yelling in my car, “Who gave power to the trucking industry over life & death matters?  Who has the right to block efforts to end Preventable Death by Underride?”

And that is only one of the many safety issues involved.

Yesterday I was frustrated with the whole side guard issue and the well-known under-reporting of side underride fatalities (in fact, of all types of underride). As far as I can tell, it has contributed to more underride victims as a direct result of the inaccurate cost/benefit analysis that has taken place.

Of course — in case you didn’t already know — I think that the whole cost/benefit analysis basis of safety rulemaking is flawed and unethical and needs to be re-examined. I have clearly laid out my thoughts on this in a drafted Vision Zero Executive Order.

Two more areas which make me concerned — because they do not seem to be taking into account the whole picture — are:

  1. Hours of Service (Have truckers been asked what they think would work best?) and
  2. Speed Limiters (What will truckers do when they need to speed up to get around someone but their speed limiter technology will not allow it? And speed limiters will not change situations where drivers cause crashes because they are driving “too fast for conditions.”)

One trucker, Jeff Halling, recently said to me (regarding speed limiters),

“Can you imagine how this will affect the Move Over Law? I’m running down the interstate stuck at 65 cars are running 80 and 85 miles an hour. An emergency vehicle is on the shoulder in front of me. What do I do? If I move over, it’s guaranteed rear-end crash. If I slow down to 40 miles an hour, which is what they recommend, another possibility of rear-end crash. Just not a good idea. I can say this though, If this law does pass we definitely need to get stronger rear end guards on trailers. Because rear-end crashes will go up ten-fold.”

Both of these situations — in my mind — need someone to facilitate rulemaking who has only safety in mind. Such as a Traffic Safety Ombudsman.

And, one more thing. . .  the pervasive idea in this country has to be confronted that it is an inevitable and acceptable risk you take when you drive on the roads, instead of understanding that there are so many things which could be done to prevent crash deaths.

Who has the power

How can this country continue to turn a cold shoulder to preventable crash deaths?

How can this country continue to turn a cold shoulder to preventable crash deaths? It is so easy to point the finger of blame and not participate in solving the problem ourselves. And it is equally easy to act like it is just a risk that travelers take — and there is nothing that can be done about the problem!

This is a recent comment from a reader (which I did NOT approve to be published on our website) on a post which I wrote related to the Tesla side underride fatal crash:

“This Proves that the Autonomous vehicles are not ready for use. Only an Imbecile would have made millions of truck owners spend thousands to millions because a few Idiots refuse to be Attentive drivers . The time for the Autonomous car is not here ,and the Whole idea needs to be SCRAPED”

And here is another:

“Here’s a novel idea. Require drivers of cars to PAY ATTENTION TO THE ROAD! Ban self driving cars or anything else. The autopilot system failed. It did not recognize the white side of the trailer. It failed to distinguish between the trailer and the sky. Stop trying to put extra burden on the trucking industry. Learn to actually drive. Take a defensive driving course . Don’t rely solely on technology . Relearn to use your brain.”

Either orCar Safety Wars

How can my daughters be gone. . . how did it come to this, that innocent lives would be required to pay the price for this travesty?

CBA Victim

Cost Benefit Analysis Victim

I am thankful that there are many who are working on the problem of preventable crash deaths and I pray that we can make tangible progress — despite the evidence that opposition continues.

Traffic Safety Ombudsman Petition: End Preventable Crash Fatalities: Appoint a National Traffic Safety Ombudsman

When Will We Tackle Underride? – The Hidden Dangers in Trucks

Is it ethical to not use safety technology which could save human lives?

“Stifled Grief: How the West Has It Wrong”

Stifled Grief: How the West Has It Wrong Huff Post (Common Grief) Michelle E. Steinke Founder/CEO – One Fit Widow, My 1 Fit Life,

It is my grief — my ongoing heartfelt loss —  which compels me to ask these questions.

CBA Victim Cost Benefit Analysis Victim

Is Cost/Benefit Analysis Appropriate for Life & Death Matters? Were their lives worth saving?

Reflections from a bereaved dad on the Underride Roundtable & what that means for rulemaking

Jerry Karth submitted some additional comments on the proposed underride rule–with reflections on what was learned through the Underride Roundtable. These comments have now been posted on the Federal Register: Additional Comments on Underride Rulemaking by Jerry Karth, May 19, 2016

He included the following important points:

After participating in the Underride Roundtable, I would like to offer these additional comments (also attached as pdf with clickable links):

1. When the Karth family petitioned Secretary Foxx on May 5, 2014, we requested an upgrade in rear underride guards. At the time, we requested that the U.S. guards meet or exceed the Canadian standard. Since that time, having done extensive online research, we have come in contact with researchers who have shown that much more is possible given existing or proposed underride research.

2. One of the questions raised at the Underride Roundtable was whether underride protection could be produced to prevent underride at higher speeds. In the Preliminary Regulatory Evaluation of the NPRM, NHTSA requested information about underride guard crash tests at higher speeds (than the 35 mph currently being proposed). In fact, underride research has been conducted for decades which has demonstrated that it is possible to prevent underride crashes at higher speeds. It is research which has been available and known to regulators and the industry. For example, the Monash University Accident Research Centre (MUARC) in Australia tested energy-absorbing guards to 75 km/h or 47 mph in the early 1990s. http://www.monash.edu/__data/assets/pdf_file/0006/216924/muarc026.pdf

3. The image of a MUARC energy-absorbing underride guard can be seen in the attachment.

4. The U.S. final underride rule should, at minimum, copy the new Australian/New Zealand proposed rule published in April 2016 as the next underride guard rule rather than the present Canadian rule which is 11 years old. The Australian rule mentions test speeds under the heading Test Requirements on p. 60, Clause G7.3: “Current vehicle crashworthiness technology indicates that occupants will not suffer serous injury in an equivalent frontal impact speed of up to around 64 km/h into a deformable barrier if the car is a modern five star Australian New Car Assessment (ANCAP) vehicle. . . The development of effective energy absorbing TUBs [Truck Underrun Barrier] would both reduce the serious injury to vehicle occupants and increase the effect frontal impact speed DeltaV above the 70 km/h test speed compared with a rigid TUB.”

5. It is technically feasible to develop an improved underride guard in less than a year, as the VA Tech Students demonstrated.

6. The consumers of the trailers have requested and received, from 4 of the trailer manufacturers (Wabash, Manac, Vanguard, Stoughton) improved underride guards.
7. Four of the major trailer manufacturers were more than willing to step up and provide a better underride guard (successfully tested at 35 mph for a 30% offset crash).

8. It is cost-effective to design and build a better underride guard.

9. The Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA ) used in this rulemaking is faulty as clearly demonstrated by some of the manufacturers’ willingness to step up and provide a better underride guardeven without regulation. (Truck Safety Marketplace)

10. It is possible to bring all of the parties involved into the process, to have meaningful conversation, and to make progress.

These attachments were included:

Jerry submitted his original public comment regarding the proposed underride rulemaking on February 16, 2016. A Bereaved Dad Takes a Close Look at the Flaws in Underride Regulatory Cost/Benefit Analysis

Underride Roundtable Timeline74 gertie 2314PetitionHeader_option2Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 141

Imagine an Executive Order propelling us toward zero crash deaths. What are we waiting for?

When I read Lou Lombardo’s Care for Crash Victims email this morning, it reminded me of what I keep thinking about the proposed underride rule. . . the regulatory analysis needs to include the cost of the lives lost (and injuries sustained) in the past — all the years of too-weak or non-existent guards even when they knew that better could be made — and all the lives which could be saved into the future.
What conclusions would the analysts then draw? Would they deem spilled blood too great a price to pay?

Dear Care For Crash Victims Community Members:

As we think about Benefits and Costs we need to think about Who gets the Benefits and Who gets the Costs.  People’s lives vs. Corporate monies.


Think about the power of Presidents and their responsibilities as OMB is a key arm of government in the White House.

See OMB Draft Report at

Imagine an Executive Order directing the Justice Department to require all settlement agreements to include payments to the government commensurate with the costs in lives lost in the past and projected into the future – and the benefits of sentencing executives to the elimination of vehicle violence forevermore – Vision Zero. 
Thanks, Lou, for your always-thoughtful questions and comments.
Adopt a Vision Zero Policy 047

Side note to Cost/Benefit Analysis Question: The fallacy behind the Australian fed. gov’t’s CBA.

Here’s a little side note on the cost/benefit analysis (CBA) debate from around the globe in Australia:

The fallacy behind the Australian Federal Government’s CBA is that the cost to the tax payer is minimal to introduce a new mandatory standard requiring crashworthy underrun barriers.

The cost is in effect born by the truck manufacturers which the industry accepts.

That’s the irony of the situation.

At most it might add a fraction of a cent to the cost of your Corn Flakes which I am sure if presented to consumers, they would gladly pay if it saved lives.

The disgusting truth to the Australian Federal Regulator’s CBA is that a ‘virtual’ cost has been added by them, i.e. cost to the industry.

That is being touted by the Federal Government as being more important than the well-being or life of a human being.

Raphael Grzebieta, Professor, Road Safety

Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 169

Is Cost/Benefit Analysis Appropriate for Life & Death Matters? Were their lives worth saving?

After we were instrumental in getting underride rulemaking initiated in July 2014, I realized that, though we had made it over one hurdle, in reality  the battle had only begun. I became concerned that the cost/benefit analysis which had so often compromised past underride rulemaking was still a very real threat. It was then that I surmised that a Vision Zero Executive Order to modify the regulatory analysis process might well be necessary. Thus the Vision Zero Petition was birthed.

CBA Victim

Some of the warning signs that the Cost/Benefit Analysis (CBA) bugaboo might be lurking around the corner can be seen in the Preliminary Cost/Benefit Analysis for the current underride rulemaking:

  1. To avoid making this post too-lengthy, I will provide the link to my initial reactions when the proposed rule was published in December 2015: A Mom’s Knee-Jerk Reaction to NHTSA’s Proposed Rule to Improve Rear Underride Protection  with an excerpt here–“NHTSA’s comments in the NPRM indicate that they do not want to compromise safety in the more common crash scenario and so have proposed to concentrate on making that area of the trailer safer and do nothing, at least at this stage in the game, about the other weaker area where crashes are reportedly less common. (See p. 44, ” NHTSA is not convinced that improved protection in the less frequent 30 percent overlap crashes should come at the cost of adequate protection in the more common 50 and 100 percent overlap crashes.”)I just have to ask, Is it really an Either/Or situation? Are we sure that we cannot reasonably address both problems?”
  2. Back in December, I put together a handy-dandy document highlighting important points in the Preliminary Analysis:  NPRM Rear Impact Guards, Rear Impact Protection December 2015 document; A Summary of Some of the Highlights
  3. Hey, I forgot about this: They are asking for information about higher (than 35 mph) speeds.  We recognize, however, that benefits may accrue from underride crashes at speeds higher than 56 km/h (35 mph), if, e.g., a vehicle’s guard exceeded the minimum performance requirements of the FMVSS. NHTSA requests information that would assist the agency in quantifying the possible benefits of CMVSS No. 223 rear impact guards in crashes with speeds higher than 56 km/h (35 mph)What are we waiting for?!
  4. Based on their proposed requirements, their CBA comes up with a figure which is very close to the current Value of a Statistical Life (VSL), $9.4 million–which tells me that if more improvements were added to the proposed rule, that figure would go up and they would then say that such a counter-measure was “not cost-effective.” Get it? p. 55 The agency estimates that the net cost per equivalent lives saved is $9.1 million and $9.5 million discounted at 3 percent and 7 percent, respectively. 
  5. See what I mean? p. 55 “We have tentatively decided not to require used trailers be retrofitted with CMVSS No. 223 compliant rear impact guards. Our analysis indicates such a retrofitting requirement would be very costly without sufficient safety benefits
  6. Of course, they aren’t figuring in (that I can see) the additional lives which would be saved with better protection or adequately considering undercounted lives–like AnnaLeah and Mary. Our FARS report said, “Compartment Intrusion Unknown.” Crash Report data on underride from our crash
  7. Why on earth, anyway, are they playing God and deciding that it isn’t worth it to save a certain number of lives? Besides, have they taken into account the fact that the underride victims are not the consumer of the product (improved guards on trailers)? The consumer is the trailer buyer who has already shown a willingness to seek safer trailers. And the manufacturers have responded to that by producing safer trailers (to a degree). See my recent comment on the Federal Register: Public Comment on the NPRM by Marianne Karth

When it gets right down to it, I want to just throw the cost/benefit analysis out the window. It is downright unethical and considers profit over people. Jerry says that the Cost Effectiveness Analysis would be more appropriate and is, in fact, mentioned in OMB Circular A-4 as a regulatory requirement.  Circular A-4, “Regulatory Impact Analysis: A Primer”

It is my hope that we can pursue a recommendation, made by a participant of the Underride Roundtable during the afternoon panel discussion, and organize a group of affected individuals and organizations/companies to meet together and develop a proposal to take to NHTSA in order to bring about a comprehensive negotiated rulemaking. The result could more quickly bring about a more effective underride rule which would cover all the bases to save as many lives as is humanly possible through improved technology. It would also get the manufacturing companies out of limbo so that they can make long-term plans and move forward with designing and producing safer products. Win/Win. N’est-ce pas?

Side note to Cost/Benefit Analysis Question: The fallacy behind the Australian fed. gov’t’s CBA.

Last night, I decided to find out if anyone agrees with my opinion that cost/benefit analysis is inappropriate for rulemaking related to traffic safety matters of life and death. Here is what I am finding:

  1. “Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Inadequate Basis for Health, Safety, and Environmental Regulatory Decisionmaking”* Michael S Baram ** “INTRODUCTION The use of cost-benefit analysis in agency decisionmaking has been hailed as the cure for numerous dissatisfactions with governmental regulation. Using this form of economic analysis arguably promotes rational decisionmaking and prevents health, safety, and environmental regulations from having inflationary and other adverse economic impacts. Closer analysis, however, reveals that the cost-benefit approach to regulatory decisionmaking suffers from major methodological limitations and institutional abuses. In practice, regulatory uses of cost-benefit analysis stifle and obstruct the achievement of legislated health, safety, and environmental goals.  The Article concludes that if the health, safety, and environmental regulators continue to use cost-benefit analysis, procedural reforms are needed to promote greater accountability and public participation in the decisionmaking process. Further, to the extent that economic factors are permissible considerations under enabling statutes, agencies should conduct cost-effectiveness analysis, which aids in determining the least costly means to designated goals, rather than cost-benefit analysis, which improperly determines regulatory ends as well as means.” Cost-Benefit Analysis: An Inadequate Basis for Health, Safety, and Environmental Regulatory Decisionmaking*
  2. “Since 1981, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) in the White House has reviewed significant proposed and final regulations for conformity with cost-benefit tests.3 Under a series of executive orders, OIRA has performed this role through Republican and Democratic presidencies.4 These policy reviews are controversial: Some claim that OIRA promotes the use of sound social-scientific reasoning; others see it as a front for business interests and a triumph of cold and heartless economic reasoning.” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 2 by Susan Rose-Ackerman
  3. President Barak Obama has continued the practice of regulatory review under the executive order originally issued by President Bill Clinton and kept in place by President George W. Bush. However, in January 2009, the Administration expressed an interest in revising the executive order. OIRA opened a comment period and received a broad response from the policy community.6 So far, nothing has happened. The comments seem to have fallen into a black hole. OIRA has not attempted a full-blown reconsideration of the executive order. It has concentrated instead on increasing the transparency of government, and especially, on the ease of access to regulatory information and data sets. Otherwise, it is “business as usual”—with the staff reviewing proposed and final rules with only an occasional flare-up over controversial issues, such as whether or not to designate coal ash as a hazardous waste.7 The failure to rethink the executive order is unfortunate—especially given the global trend to institutionalize something called impact assessment (IA).” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 3
  4. With no change in the executive order, CBA will continue to be enshrined as the ideal standard for regulation in the United States. Even if the actual cost-benefit studies performed by U.S. government agencies are highly variable in quality and often lack key components, the technique remains a benchmark for analysis.10 I seek to challenge the hegemony of CBA on two grounds. First, cost-benefit analysis should be used to evaluate only a limited class of regulatory policies, and even then it should be supplemented with value choices not dictated by welfare economics. Second, CBA presents an impoverished normative framework for policy choices that do not fall into this first category.”  Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p.4
  5. “Here, the main problems are measurement difficulties that are sometimes so fundamental that better analysis or consultation with experts cannot solve them. I am thinking mainly of debates over the proper discount rate for future benefits and costs; efforts to incorporate attitudes toward risk; and the vexing problems of measuring the value of human life, of aesthetic and cultural benefits, and of harm to the natural world. Disputes over these issues turn on deep philosophical questions—for example, valuing future generations versus” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 5
  6. “These issues do not have “right” answers within economics. They should not be obscured by efforts to put them under the rubric of a CBA. Politically responsible officials in the agencies and the White House should resolve them in a transparent way. ” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 6
  7. ” There is no need to resolve difficult conceptual and philosophical issues if the preferred outcome does not depend on the choice of a discount rate or the value given to human life. ” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 6
  8. “I review the limitations of CBA as a policy criterion and use my critique as a ground for proposing a revised executive order to the Obama Administration. The new executive order should continue to require both up-front consultation on the regulatory agenda and ongoing review of major regulations above some minimum level of importance. As Revesz and Livermore recommend, OIRA could play a larger role in overall agenda setting and policy coordination across agencies.13 Such review serves the interest of any president seeking to influence the overall regulatory environment. Hence, both consultation and review should be mandatory for core executive agencies, but, under my proposed framework, the executive order would only require agencies to carry out formal CBAs for a subset of regulations.” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 7
  9. “To avoid conflicts with the political pressures facing the President, an advisory body independent of the White House should provide expert analytic advice to agency policy analysts and to OIRA. In this, I build on Stephen Breyer, who urges the creation of a separate expert agency with the mission of rationalizing regulatory policy across programs that regulate risk.14 Bruce Ackerman also recommends the creation of an integrity branch, concerned with transparency and limiting corruption, and a regulatory branch insulated from day-to-day political influences but required to justify its actions publicly.15 Either OIRA, or this new advisory body, should create a library of innovative tools for achieving regulatory goals that go beyond the much criticized command-and-control model. Agency policymakers could access this library as they look for innovative ways to achieve goals, as could those contemplating amendments to existing laws” Putting Cost-Benefit Analysis in Its Place: Rethinking Regulatory Review p. 7-8

Do it, President Obama, for We the People of this United States of America! #VisionZero

Letter to President Obama from the Karth Family, including the Vision Zero Executive Order

Vision Zero Petition Book 3rd Edition

Cost Benefit Analysis Victim