NBC News received a letter from the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association about the Today Show investigative report on Side Underride. After further investigation, NBC News added this to their article on the report:
Update and correction: After the publication of our story, we received a letter from the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA), which argues that our report overstated the simplicity of the side guard fix and that prototypes have been technical and commercial failures. TTMA made the same argument to NHTSA in a letter we referenced in our report, which you can read here. They also told us that TTMA has not made any political donations to lawmakers on the issue of side underrides, including to Senator Thune. In response to other points made by TTMA, we have updated our online report with TTMA’s response that guards in Europe are focused on protecting bicyclists and pedestrians, not automobiles and that NTSB said injuries and deaths “could” be reduced by side guards, instead of “would.” We also have updated campaign finance data, broken out donations from the trucking sector of the transportation industry, and corrected the period during which those donations were made.
I previously wrote about the TTMA’s May 13, 2016 letter to NHTSA about side guards. Read it here.
Despite the TTMA’s objections to the report, the fact remains that almost as many people die from side underride crashes each year as from rear underride crashes. And, furthermore, I have seen with my own eyes the difference that side guards can make in stopping deadly underride.
Will we let the technical and commercial failures of side guard prototypes in the past stop us from keeping at the task of solving this problem? I thank God for people like Aaron Kiefer and Perry Ponder who have kept at it until they successfully proved what human ingenuity could do to save lives.
Note: In fact, Europe’s side guard standards are designed to protect pedestrians and cyclists — which the U.S. should do, too! But Europe does not require the prevention of cars from underriding trucks. I have been in communication with a global automotive regulation specialist, and I hope that what happens here in the U.S. will have a ripple effect globally.
One of our Underride Research funding goals is to cover the costs of crash testing at IIHS ($25,000) of an innovative underride prevention system designed by Aaron Kiefer, a forensic engineer (he does crash reconstructions) here in North Carolina. Jerry and I went to see his prototype a few weeks ago. Very cool. It combines side & rear guard protection.
“Ten automakers have committed to the government [NHTSA] and a private safety group [IIHS] that they will include automatic emergency braking in all new cars, a step transportation officials say could significantly reduce traffic deaths and injuries.”
Michael R. Lemov in his book, Car Safety Wars, describes the impact of the passing of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act and the Highway Safety Act in 1966:
“Detroit had lost its bid to prevent federal regulation of the safety of motor vehicles and highways. The companies promised to ‘live with the bill.’ But the industry continued its efforts to weaken key safety standards under the new act. It had only temporarily lost its political clout. It raised objections to the first standards issued by NHTSA in 1968 and later, to most things the safety agency proposed. Manufacturers sent their chief executives to the White House and to President Nixon. They pressed Secretaries of Transportation. They lobbied administrators of NHTSA. They argued, often successfully, to the House and Senate Appropriations committees for restrictions on the safety agency’s funding. The car safety wars did not end.
The enactment of strong federal motor vehicle and highway safety laws marked the single biggest milestone in the century-long fight for safer cars and roads. But the long struggle against death and injury on the highways was really just beginning.” p. 106
It is important for verbal commitment to safety to be followed up with regulatory provisions to ensure that it, in fact, becomes a reality.