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:
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