A senator’s Office recently asked me to provide them with a one-page history of reports and recommendations made on the truck underride problem in the U.S. Here it is (with clickable links):
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:
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.”
I hope that these visual and informative tools will aid us, as a nation, in addressing this tragic but preventable public health problem.
— Raphael Grzebieta (@RaphRoadSafety) March 22, 2017
See a paper by Raphael Grzebieta and George Rechnitzer here: Proposed Australian/New Zealand AS/NZS 3845.2 Standard for Truck Underrun Barriers: Design, Testing and Performance Requirements
NHTSA considering Canadian underride CMVSS No. 223: no crash test, no offset impact considered, bottom of barrier set too high. Not good.
— Raphael Grzebieta (@RaphRoadSafety) March 22, 2017
COMPARE THIS: A real-life underride death prevented by a new rear underride guard: New Stoughton Rear Underride Guard Proven Successful In Real Life Crash; Driver Survives
TO THIS: A real-life rear underride tragedy in a crash into an old, weak, and ineffective rear underride guard: Carroll deputy killed in crash
Seems like a no-brainer to me to require that all of the 15.5 million trucks on the road have the best possible underride protection.
Note: How many trucks are on the road?
“Estimates of 15.5 million trucks operate in the U.S.. Of this figure 2 million are tractor trailers. “ http://www.truckinfo.net/trucking/stats.htm
- How many new trucks are manufactured each year?
“2016 Top 25 North American Truck-Trailer & Chassis OEMs
You, too, can let NHTSA know what you want them to do about the problem of preventable truck side underride. In addition to signing the Side Guard Petition which we have launched online, you can also post a comment directly to NHTSA on the Federal Register.
Although the official Public Comment period is closed, comments will still be posted and taken into consideration by NHTSA, as they have not yet put together a Final Rule on truck underride protection.
I have received notifications the last few days regarding new postings to the Federal Register of Public Comments from people asking DOT/NHTSA to mandate side guards! I am assuming that this is in response to my request for people to do so to help bring about change. 🙂 See the recent Public Comments here:
You can do it, too! SUBMIT a Public Comment to DOT/NHTSA here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NHTSA-2015-0118 After you get to this site, click on the COMMENT NOW button.
Don’t forget to sign the Side Guard PETITION
So, here’s a real-life scenario. What might a Traffic Safety Ombudsman do in this situation?
Auto Safety Advocates Tell Obama To Stop Rush To Get Self-Driving Cars On Road; Pull Back Autonomous Vehicle Technology ‘Guidance’ Expected Next Week http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/auto-safety-advocates-tell-obama-stop-rush-get-self-driving-cars-road-pull-back-autonomo
A coalition of auto safety advocates today called on President Obama to stop his “administration’s undue haste to get autonomous vehicle technology to the road” until enforceable safety standards are in place. They said the administration’s autonomous vehicle “guidance” expected next week should not be issued. . .
“If the manufacturers, including the high-tech companies, lack the confidence in their products to stand behind them and assume responsibility and liability when the systems they design are in control, and innocent people are injured or killed as a result, those vehicles do not belong on the road,” the letter said.
“The administration should not succumb to Silicon Valley hype about the miracles of autonomous vehicle technology. Autonomous vehicle technologies hold the promise of improving safety. But that promise can only be realized after thorough testing and a public rulemaking process that results in enforceable standards” the letter concluded.
Consumer Watchdog Letter to Obama: http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrobamaav071316.pdf
Indeed. Make SAFETY a priority. Once someone dies in a crash, they never come back.
SIGN & SHARE the TRAFFIC SAFETY OMBUDSMAN Petition: https://wh.gov/i6kUj
PLEASE NOTE: If you sign the petition, be sure to go to your email. We the People will send you an email which will say this in the subject line: “Almost done! Verify your Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov account.” Follow the instructions to verify your signature.
Strick Trailer is recalling certain single-axle 28-foot van trailers for a rear-impact guard issue, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration document.
More specifically, 2005-2009 van trailers manufactured July 25, 2004, to Feb. 3, 2009, and equipped with rear-impact guards using gussets 55997 and 55998 are affected. Gussets on affected trucks can increase the chances of injury during a crash, thereby violating Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 223, “Rear Impact Guards.”
In March 2014, Strick discovered that the gussets may not have been verified using prescribed test procedures, according to the NHTSA document. Tests conducted in April 2014 confirmed that the gussets violated FMVSS 223.
Owners will be notified by Strick to have reinforcements installed to the rear-impact guards at no cost. For more information, contact Strick’s customer service at 260-692-6121. The recall will begin on June 17.
Okay, I am glad that this is being taken care of, but I only hope that it will be done thoroughly and completely and without delay. And, by the way, if the problem was discovered in March 2014, why is the recall only beginning on June 17, 2016? What took so long?
Rather than wait for a stronger underride rule to be proposed, Jerry Karth, in early 2014, determined to challenge the truck industry to voluntarily step up and strengthen underride protection on trucks.
He wrote letters, first of all, to the major trailer manufacturers — some of whom had been tested earlier by IIHS. He told them about our crash story — how AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13) through no fault of their own were killed by truck underride which might have been prevented if the truck they collided with had had better underride guards.
Then, soon after those letters were out the door, Jerry had several more lists of trucking companies, who either purchased or leased trailers. He proceeded to write letters to those companies — again telling them our crash story and making sure that they understood the inadequacy of guards designed to satisfy the current U.S. underride standard, or even the Canadian one for that matter.
Jerry asked them to look into the matter — even providing them with copies of the IIHS Status Reports which had articles on the underride issue. He asked them to make sure that they were getting their trailers from manufacturers which provided the best protection possible. He received letters, emails, and phone calls indicating that the companies were appreciative of the information provided to them.
Then, several months ago, Jerry got a call from Greer Woodruff, VP of Safety, Security, & Driver Personnel at J.B. Hunt a transport company. Greer was calling to tell Jerry that JB Hunt had purchased 4,000 new trailers in January 2016 from Wabash who had recently manufactured safer underride guards–having passed the IIHS 30% overlap crash test.
See my posts with exciting developments on this front:
- Thank you, Wabash, for creating a safer truck rear underride guard!
- An unexpected phone call from a trailer buyer with good news on underride guards (with examples of Jerry’s letters)
- Thank you, Wabash, for taking steps to protect innocent lives! @WabashNational
And later, during the afternoon panel discussion at the Underride Roundtable at IIHS on May 5, Jerry asked Mark Roush from Vanguard (a trailer manufacturer) what had motivated them to produce their recently-strengthened underride guards. This was what he found out:
“We had no idea if there would be a safety marketplace for large trucks when we began our crash tests,” Matthew Brumbelow, an IIHS senior research engineer who has extensively studied truck underride crashes, shared with the audience. “We at the Institute have been really encouraged by the response from trailer manufacturers.”
Mark Roush, vice president of engineering with Vanguard, participated in the afternoon panel discussion. Vanguard is one of the trailer manufacturers that voluntarily improved their underride guards. Roush credited IIHS research and the Karth family’s advocacy for raising awareness of the underride problem and ways to address it.
“As far as we knew we were producing trailers to what we thought was the highest regulatory standard, and then the IIHS test came in and made us aware of what was happening,” Roush said. “Three of our largest customers forwarded letters from you [Karth] asking us to do more.” The Karths personally wrote the largest trailer makers seeking their help in building better rear guards.
David Zuby, IIHS executive vice president and chief research officer, wrapped up the day with a call for continued cooperation and research.
“The one thing I hope everyone takes away from this is that there has been a lot of progress in recent years on underride crashes, and there will be more ahead. We heard from Virginia Tech students who are about to graduate and are already thinking about how to make underride guards better. And you heard from Matt Brumbelow about how guards are being designed to prevent types of underride crashes that weren’t addressed before. We are optimistic that we can solve this problem working together.” See more at: IIHS: Truck underride roundtable addresses problem of deadly crashes
It needs to be said, as I have stated before, that the positive progress made by the trailer manufacturers voluntarily — though it should be appreciated — should, nevertheless, not be allowed to stand as the end of the line. Unless they pass crash tests at higher speeds, the manufacturers need to get back to the drawing board and find ways to make their trucks safer all around (including on the sides and at the front) and at higher speeds.
And, unless trucks currently on the road are retrofitted and Single Unit Trucks become included in underride standards, way too many people will continue to die on our roads from preventable underride.
I think that it would make Mary & AnnaLeah smile to think that their lives were the impetus for saving others from an untimely end and untold heartache.
To read additional posts which I wrote as a follow-up to the Underride Roundtable, go here: Underride Roundtable Follow-up Posts
Dear Care for Crash Victims Community Members:
Marianne Karth asked NHTSA for information on Truck Underride Deaths.
NHTSA provided a revealing and disturbing set of data.
For twenty years about 4 people every average week an American motorist died of their injuries according to NHTSA’s FARS data. From 1994-2014 the total amounting to 5,081 deaths were recorded by NHTSA. See attached.
Investigative Reporters and Editors (IRE) have access to such data, so why don’t we see more stories? See DOT and NHTSA databases available at IRE at
Let’s get the media focusing on our clear and present dangers here at home in the U.S.A. today.
Let’s get the media to produce change for the better with news we can use.
See the second day of this conference here:
Tapes might be available this afternoon.
Yesterday can be seen here: