I wrote to a number of people last week about my frustration with the many trucks which I see on the road with underride guards that I am not very confident could withstand a crash. This, naturally, is distressing to someone who has lost a loved one due to an underride guard that did not withstand a crash.
I expressed my concern that little appeared to be happening in terms of monitoring underride guards. I asked them to show me if I was wrong.
This week, I got a reply from Jack Van Steenburg, Chief Safety Officer with the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) in Washington, DC. This is what he explained to me about their role in monitoring underride guards (among other things):
I will reply to this email as your others on this subject are captured below.
First, let me state that underride protection requirements are identified in our Safety Regulations under 49CFR§393.86, Rear impact guards and rear end protection. (http://www.fmcsa.dot.gov/regulations/title49/section/393.86) This section is covered and taught to all certified Inspectors across the United States in our North American Standard Truck Inspection course.
To date, in 2014 there have been 2,358 violations of this regulation written by Inspectors. If a traffic ticket was written to a driver for this violation, then he/she is responsible for the violation. In all cases, the motor carrier has to repair or fix any violation cited on the inspection report within 15 days following the date of inspection. The states follow up with the carriers to assure the violations are fixed.
The violations cited for this section, and any other vehicle equipment violation, are captured in our safety data and are a component of the formula that drives our CSA Safety Measurement System Unsafe Driving BASIC. If that BASIC (as well as others) exceeds a certain threshold, then we will take some type of intervention ranging from a warning letter outlining the equipment concerns to a full comprehensive on site compliance review. There are many penalties a carrier can receive ranging from a notice of violation all the way to an Unsatisfactory rating. Those processes are set out in our regulations as well.
I might add that all states have adopted the 49CFR §393.86, Rear impact guards and rear end protection, section within their own laws.
I hope this answers some of your questions.
Jack Van Steenburg”
I replied to his email:
Thank you for your detailed response in describing the regulation, training, and inspection process. I am glad to see that there is a procedure in place.
2,358 violations issued out of 2 million tractor trailers = .12%
Hopefully, the other 1,997,642 (or 99.88%) are in better shape than the ones which received violations this year.
(Unfortunately, there is nothing that I can do to make those existing 2 million trailers have a more effective design. But I wish that I could hurry along even faster the improvement of the underride guards on future tractor trailers!)