Tag Archives: rear impact guards

2 Moms Collaborate With Innovative & Insightful Truck Industry Leaders

After two full days of attending the ATA’s Technology & Maintenance Council conference in Nashville, I am having a hard time figuring out what to talk about first.

It has been very good to spend that time with Lois Durso, a mom who also lost a daughter to truck (side) underride. We first began talking on the phone a couple of weeks ago and planned to meet at the conference. Having a bond of similar grief, we have talked almost non-stop — both about our daughters as well as strategies for truck safety.

In fact, we were both guests of Stoughton Trailers at the conference and they asked me to share our family’s crash story and the safety advocacy which followed, as well as our appreciation of how Stoughton stepped up and voluntarily improved their rear impact guard and are able to offer it as standard on all new dry van trailers — at no added cost or weight penalty to their customers.

Gary Fenton, VP Engineering, Stoughton Trailers, Marianne Karth, Bob Wahlin, CEO Stoughton Trailers

I received a wonderful surprise this morning when I unexpectedly found out that Stoughton now has a rear impact guard (RIG) retrofit kit available for purchase to install as a replacement on all existing (compatible) Stoughton trailers, as far back as 2007. I talked with the Products manager and she roughly estimated the cost to trailer owners to be around $500-600.

I am not indicating that Stoughton’s new RIG is necessarily better than any of the other manufacturers who have also stepped up to the plate and designed rear guards to receive the Toughguard award. But I am commending them for making the safety of the driving public a priority.  In fact, I do not have specific crash test information to rate one new design compared to the others.  At the end of the day, Jerry and I are thankful to the many persons and companies which have helped to bring about this progress in underride protection.

We will continue to advocate for the strongest possible underride protection on all trucks. That, of course, includes side underride protection, which Lois and I discussed with many industry leaders this week. It also means that Single Unit Trucks still need to be addressed, along with front override, retrofitting, maintenance, and identifying the outer limits of underride protection.

We are not done yet. They haven’t seen the last of us. We’ve got more lives to save.

Lois Durso, Dick Giromini, CEO of Wabash Trailers, Marianne Karth

Stay tuned for news from IIHS on trailer manufacturer underride protection awards.

Update: IIHS announcement at 10 a.m. on March 1; Trucks.com article: Insurance Institute Launches New Safety Ranking of Truck Trailers

Other articles covering this story:

  1. Trucks.com article: Insurance Institute Launches New Safety Ranking of Truck Trailers
  2. Today’s Trucking article on the Stoughton Press Conference: Activist applauds Stoughton for tougher guards
  3. Trucknews.comStoughton improves rear impact guard
  4. Fleetowner.com: New refrigerated model on the way from Stoughton Trailers
  5. Truckinginfo.com: Stoughton Underride Guard Earns Kudos from Crash Survivor, Insurance Institute

Thank you, IIHS for your commitment to this crash testing project, which has highlighted the continuing underride problem and guided the way to a solution. Thank you, as well, to the trailer manufacturers who have voluntarily improved the rear underride protection on the trailers which they produce and sell (and/or lease).

Here is a Youtube video, posted by Cars-Trucks TV, which demonstrates the effectiveness of the improved rear underride guards designed by five of the major trailer manufacturers — Great Dane, Manac, Stoughton, Vanguard, and Wabash — from 2013 to 2017.
They have proven that creative minds can come up with better underride protection. The cars are damaged from the crash, but underride is prevented and lives are preserved.

Public Comment Period Now Open for Proposed Rule for Rear Underride Guards on Trailers

Comments can now be submitted on NHTSA’s proposed rule for rear impact guards and rear impact protection on trailers. The Public Comment period will end on February 16, 2016.

More information on this rule and how to submit comments can be found here: http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA_FRDOC_0001-1548

IIHS October 2014 Status Report Article First Page

article can be found at: IIHS Status Report October 2014

It is our hope that public comments on this rule, and the Underride Roundtable planned for May 5, 2016, will result in the best possible protection on the backs of trucks. Please pray for this important process.


A Mom’s Knee-Jerk Reaction to NHTSA’s Proposed Rule to Improve Rear Underride Protection

First of all, let me say that I am grateful for the work which NHTSA has done on this problem and their willingness to address it at this time. Then, I have to admit that I am not an engineer. So it’s a good thing that we don’t have to depend on me to be the one to provide a thorough analysis of the recently released proposed rule for the improvement of tractor trailer rear impact protection standards and all of its technical pros and cons.

But I can provide a summary of the highlights included in the NPRM, along with some of my knee-jerk reactions as a mom of two girls, who perished due to a truck underride crash, and as an advocate for better underride protection.

These are my general reactions. . .

While this proposed rear underride rule is definitely a much-needed improvement to the existing standards, it does not appear to embrace a Vision Zero policy approach which would seek to reduce crash deaths and injuries whenever and however possible.

Many of the trailer manufacturers are already meeting Canadian standards, but IIHS research has shown that this is still not adequate to prevent underride in many crash scenarios–particularly offset crashes. http://www.iihs.org/ externaldata/srdata/docs/ sr4907.pdf

Also, when I look at what NHTSA is predicting in terms of lives saved by this proposed rule–1 out of the 125 annual reported PCI underride crash fatalities–I have to ask, “What about the other 124?!” And our daughters, AnnaLeah and Mary, were not even counted in the 2013 FARS crash data for PCI crash fatalities because our crash was listed as “Passenger Compartment Intrusion Unknown“!!!


(Note: See our FARS crash report in my Public Comment on the Single Unit Truck rear impact protection ANPRM and a discussion of the problem of underride crash fatality UNDERREPORTING  and how it might impact the count of potential saved lives. . .  http://www.regulations.gov/#!documentDetail;D=NHTSA-2015-0070-0018)

In addition, there are many engineers around the globe who have come up with improved designs for underride protection, and there are many who are even now working on solutions that are stronger than the Canadian standards. They just have not yet been widely implemented or required.

It is, undoubtedly, an enormously significant step for NHTSA to acknowledge the need for stronger guards and to propose an improved guard. However, we do not want them to base the final rule merely on what will provide a “cost-effective” solution if, in fact, technology could be utilized which would save additional lives and prevent additional injuries.

One of our big concerns has been the apparently more vulnerable crash scenario when the smaller passenger vehicle hits the rear of the truck at the outer edges of the rear of the trailer. When Jerry and I visited Great Dane’s Research & Design Center in Savannah in June 2014, they pointed out that the company, Manac, which passed the 30% offset crash test had proven to be more vulnerable (although it still withstood the crash) at the 100% overlap test.

I reported on that in a previous blogpost in June 2014: “Great Dane, one of the major trailer manufacturers, observed that they passed all but one of the quasi-static crash tests—the narrow overlap. Great Dane also noted that their guard appeared to perform better on the full overlap test than Manac’s (which was the only company to pass all three tests in 2013). So Great Dane does not want to make a change which will strengthen one section of their guard but weaken another section. That’s understandable.”   http://annaleahmary.com/2014/06/underride-guards-can-we-sit-down-at-the-table-together-and-work-this-out/

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?

We are hoping and working toward the possibility that the Public Comments which will be submitted, the underride research both underway and proposed, and the Underride Roundtable which will be taking place at the IIHS Vehicle Research Center on May 5, 2016, will help to refine this rule so that it results in the best possible protection.

Here is the complete NPRM document: NPRM-underride.Dec2015

And here is the press release announcing the proposed rule:  https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/usdot-issues-nprm-improved-rear-impact-trailers-semitrailers#sthash.j6eu5DN1.dpuf

As I reviewed the NPRM document for rear impact protection on tractor-trailers, I created my own 9-page document by copying and pasting some of the highlights of the proposed rule (page numbers are indicated in case you want to go to the original document for further details). You can read my summary of the proposed rule here:  Highlights of the NPRM Rear Impact Guards, Rear Impact Protection December 2015 document

On December 10, I was interviewed by Atlanta investigative reporter, Jim Strickland:  http://www.wsbtv.com/news/news/local/new-rules-proposed-help-keep-you-safer-behind-big-/npgzd/.

Unexpected Events & Progress in Underride Protection

When we were headed from North Carolina to Texas, on May 4, 2013, and hit by a truck, not only did we lose our two youngest daughters, AnnaLeah (17) and Mary (13), but we lost the joy of celebrating fully with four of our children as they became college graduates in Texas during that month of May.

So, this past weekend, we were looking forward to a more uneventful trip to celebrate one of our sons’ graduation on December 5, 2015, from Concordia University in Austin, Texas. Unexpectedly, it really became a whole lot more.

In fact, we thoroughly enjoyed Levi’s graduation ceremony as he walked across the stage summa cum laude, along with the party afterwards at a Peruvian restaurant where we were able to spend an enjoyable afternoon with his friends.

Texas to North Carolina 2015 023 Texas to North Carolina 2015 062 DSCF6169

On our way back home to North Carolina, we stopped in Arlington to visit with our oldest daughter, Rebekah, and her husband, John. Instead of taking them out to dinner, they took us out to a holiday party hosted by her Tae Kwon Do instructor. There we had the pleasure of meeting with her friends and being there in person as she was presented with an unexpected award for her Indomitable Spirit.

Texas to North Carolina 2015 116 Texas to North Carolina 2015 110

The next day, as we started back toward North Carolina, I found myself going again through many emotions as I realized anew that this trip was the one we were supposed to be taking back home in May 2013 after a week of family celebrations–with AnnaLeah & Mary a part of our festivities and part of the crew returning home. I must admit that the trip was hard–with many memories triggered as we passed by landmarks.

DSCF6259 Exit 128 was where the crash took place 2 hours before ours and 2 miles ahead of our crash at Exit 130. That caused the traffic backup which the truck driver did not notice in time and consequently hit our car pushing us into another truck.DSCF6261

DSCF6264This is where our crash took place–about where that truck is is where we ended up after being dragged under the truck ahead of us.


That night, as we decided to call it a day and stop for the night in Tuscaloosa, Alabama, I saw a sign for the University of Alabama and I knew that Birmingham was just down the road apiece. I thought, hey, that’s where Dean Sicking is!  We had only talked with Dean on the phone and corresponded with him via email about his proposed Underride Research Project.

Dean Sicking’s Underride Research Project Proposal: Development of Trailer Underride Preventive Measures

So, the next morning, before eating breakfast, I emailed Dean and his Research Assistant, Kevin Schrum, and said we were going to be driving through Birmingham and to give me a call if we could meet. A bit later, first Dean called to say he was going to be in a meeting that morning but he thought Kevin would be available. Then Kevin called and said that he would love to meet with us. We then had a very good meeting with Kevin and even recorded a few minutes of him talking about his passion for research and his confidence that much improvement could be made.

Kevin shared how he–like his mentor Dean Sicking–believes that the underride problem is not insurmountable and is hopeful that, with adequate backing, they could develop a step-by-step solution which could be adopted by the industry to ultimately reduce underride deaths to zero.

We were also able to talk about some ways in which they might be able to help us seek additional funding to back the research.

LOGO AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety https://www.fortrucksafety.com/

After such an eventful trip, I did not have much memory or battery left on my camera, but I was able to capture some of Kevin’s passion and ideas on this video:

As if all of this were not enough, shortly after we got back on the road, I discovered that I had missed a call from Mark Rosekind, the Administrator of NHTSA, who wanted to give me a heads up that they were releasing a NPRM (Notice of Proposed Rule Making) proposing that the requirements for rear underride guards on tractor trailers be improved!

We have been awaiting this news ever since the initial Advance Notice of Proposed Rule Making (ANPRM) was announced in July 2014 following our delivery of  over 11,000 petition signatures requesting this on May 5, 2014. So this was unexpected excitement to add to our trip.

Not being at my computer hampered the following hours as I attempted to find out as much as I could. A summary of the proposed rule is that it will upgrade the requirements to match the Canadian standards (requiring them to withstand a crash at 35 mph rather than 30 mph), which many U.S. companies are already doing.

However, after a very cursory review of the 108 pages, as far as I can tell it does not address the problem with current standards failing in offset crashes (when the smaller vehicle does not hit dead center at the back of the truck). And the NPRM anticipates 1 saved life out of the 125 reported PCI underride crash fatalities on average annually. (Our crash is not reported as a PCI crash fatality but rather is listed in the federal crash data as “Passenger Compartment Intrusion Unknown“!)  What about the other 124?

Shortly after finding out this news, I also got a phone call from Jeff Plungis, a Bloomberg News reporter who had interviewed me last year extensively on the underride issue (http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2014-12-16/dead-girls-mom-says-100-truck-fix-may-have-saved-them.html). He asked me what my reaction was to the NPRM and later in the day published this article:  http://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2015-12-07/stronger-truck-guards-proposed-by-u-s-to-cut-rear-impact-deaths.

Here is the press release from NHTSA on the rear underride NPRM:  “A key component of DOT’s safety mission is ensuring that trucking, an essential element in our transportation system, operates not just efficiently, but safely,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “Today’s proposal is another important step in that effort.” – See more at: https://www.transportation.gov/briefing-room/usdot-issues-nprm-improved-rear-impact-trailers-semitrailers#sthash.j6eu5DN1.dpuf

And here is the NPRM itselfNPRM-underride.Dec2015

Take a moment to read Administrator Mark Rosekind’s thoughts on this important development in truck safety:

“Although the responsibility for both of these measures [this NPRM along with the ANPRM on Single Unit Trucks] lands on truck owners, that’s a function of vehicle design more than crash causality. We’ve also taken a number of steps over the years to prevent crashes resulting from driver behaviors, such as drunk driving, speeding, and distracted driving. And, we’re accelerating the spread of crash avoidance technologies such as automatic emergency braking and lane departure warning for passenger vehicles sold in the US.

But, when we have a cost-effective solution that can reduce the risk of death or injury to passenger vehicle occupants in the event of a crash into the rear of a trailer or semitrailer, our commitment to safety obligates us to propose it. Which is why today we’re proposing this enhancement of current rear impact guard standards.”  https://www.transportation.gov/fastlane/nhtsa-proposes-new-rear-impact-guard-standards

All in all, it was quite an eventful–albeit SAFE–trip!



A Question About FMCSA Monitoring & Enforcement of Underride Guards

underride guards trip to RDU 005

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.

How many trucks operate in the U.S.?
Estimates of 15.5 million trucks operate in the U.S.. Of this figure 2 million are tractor trailers.”
(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!)

Our Crash Was Not An Accident


Our crash was not an accident.

There were many factors which contributed to our crash and to the fact that there were fatalities, including:

  1. There was a fatal crash two miles ahead of us two hours before our crash occurred. This had caused the traffic to back up.
  2. There had been nothing done, that I am aware of, to divert traffic or alert travelers that they would be coming up on this situation.
  3. Truck drivers have very long work weeks–partially a scheduling issue.
  4. Truck drivers are under a lot of pressure to drive a lot of hours and miles due to their compensation system.
  5. Consumers want their products delivered yesterday.
  6. Enforcement of truck driving regulations, especially of Hours Of Service (HOS), as well as truck maintenance, is an issue–paper log books have not been considered reliable and, too often, violations are not identified until it is too late.
  7. Opposition, to needed changes in regulations, by the trucking industry leads to delays in, or prevention of, changes which could prevent crashes and/or save lives.
  8. Training for, and issuing of, CDLs is not always what it should be.
  9. Federal regulations for underride guards—partially due to misinformed opposition and lack of priority assigned to this needed change—have been inadequate for far too long.
  10. Despite evidence from crash test research and real-world crash analysis, trailer manufacturers continued to produce inadequate underride guards.
  11. The unsafe driving habits/decisions of the truck driver who hit us may well have determined the outcome of our road trip for AnnaLeah and Mary.
  12. Drowsy driving may have been a factor. DWF = Driving While Fatigued can impair driving as much or more than DUI. Yet, it does not receive the same consequence.
  13. Current laws, for the most part, do not include DWF in the category of a “reckless” action. Vehicular homicide (which is a misdemeanor) would only become 1st degree vehicular homicide (which is a felony) in Georgia, if the driver were also charged with one of the following:
  • DUI.
  • Reckless driving.
  • Hit and run.
  • Passing a school bus.
  • Fleeing or eluding.
  • (Not DWF).
  1. I’ve probably forgotten something or other.  .  .
  2. Oh, yes, I got out of bed that morning, climbed into the car, and got on the road. I stopped for lunch and left the restaurant five minutes too soon (or too late).  Mary and AnnaLeah had come with me.

And who is taking responsibility for this crash (and thousands more like it every year)? How will this ever be addressed adequately to end this senseless slaughter of innocent victims in potentially preventable crashes?

Please wake up, America! After all, it could be you or someone you love that it happens to next. . . Let’s mandate a federal task force to address this widespread, complicated problem once and for all.



Making Progress on Improving Underride Guards: Just in Time for Someone Else

gertie 2947

This last year, Jerry wrote to numerous trailer manufacturing companies asking them to voluntarily step up their underride guard standards. We got some positive response and stirred up interest in companies to which he also wrote who purchase trailers–enlightening them as well. One of the manufacturers, Great Dane, invited us to tour their Research & Design Center on June 25.

Afterwards, I posted this: http://annaleahmary.com/2014/06/underride-guards-can-we-sit-down-at-the-table-together-and-work-this-out/ with this video: http://youtu.be/xY6mp3PWKTA  to summarize what I saw as the frustrating lack of progress on improving underride guards and the seeming lack of communication among the various responsible parties with the authority to do something about it.

Of course, we weren’t the only ones frustrated with the inaction on what seems to be a drastically-needed change. Earlier this year, when we took the petitions to DC in May, we had met with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS). At that time, they put it like this: It is safer to run into a brick wall than into the back of a truck. Yet, seemingly, nothing was being done about it.

Over the course of time, in communications with IIHS, it had finally become clear to me just why that statement is true and why it didn’t seem to be understood by some in the trucking industry. I had read last fall, in a newscast which quoted Jeff Sims from the TTMA, that some thought that “too rigid” guards might cause more of a problem. (http://www.theindychannel.com/news/call-6-investigators/underride-guards-metal-barriers-on-back-of-large-trucks-often-fail-to-protect-drivers ) That didn’t make a lot of sense to me, especially considering our accident in which Caleb and I survived and AnnaLeah and Mary did not due to underride.

It turns out that, when the current federal standards were going through the lengthy process of being developed, there was some discussion that there might be a chance that the guards could be “too rigid”–so that strength had to be balanced with energy absorption. But, since then, technology has been developed to create “crush zones” in cars–effectively protecting the occupants in a crash, but not so effectively if  underride occurs because then the crash technology is not allowed to do its thing.

What I found interesting, this morning, was that when I researched the history of airbags (part of that crash technology: http://web.bryant.edu/~ehu/h364proj/sprg_97/dirksen/airbags.html ), I discovered that they were first required to be installed starting in 1998the very year that the current federal underride guard standards were required to be implemented (see the history of federal rulemaking on underride guards: http://tinyurl.com/phlaqon ). In effect, those underride guard standards were obsolete/ineffective/out-of-date as soon as they were implemented–only apparently no one was even aware of that unfortunate situation.

Happily, NHTSA has now acknowledged that they agree with us that the rear guards need to be improved, and, on top of that, IIHS told us that 5 out of the 7 companies which failed their 2013 narrow overlap test are in various stages of redesigning their guard. I sure hope that, even now, engineers across the world are wracking their brains and communicating with one another to come up with the best possible protection for us all. Could be we are getting somewhere with this problem…

Too late for AnnaLeah and Mary, but maybe just in time for someone else.

gertie 2946

The Rulemaking Process: A Series of Hurdles to Achieve the Goal of Stronger Underride Guards

underride guards trip to RDU 007
We have just gone over a hurdle–a very important hurdle which has set the ball rolling in the pursuit of improved standards for more effective, life-saving underride guards.

But I am reminded of what the track & field event called The Hurdles is really like. Webster’s defines hurdle like this:

” :one of a series of barriers to be jumped over in a race

the hurdles : a race in which runners must jump over hurdles

: something that makes an achievement difficult.” http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/hurdle

I ran the hurdles when I was in high school. I have a scar on my knee from the cinder track to prove it (now lost amid the scars from the truck crash). What we have to remember is that going over one hurdle is not enough. Once you have successfully gone over one, you have to keep in rhythm and go after the next, and the next, and…always keeping focused on staying the course until the end.

This is what the Federal Register posting says at the end: “The agency notes that its granting of the petition submitted by Ms. Karth and the Truck Safety Coalition does not prejudge the outcome of the rulemaking or necessarily mean that a final rule will be issued. The determination of whether to issue a rule will be made after study of the requested action and the various alternatives in the course of the rulemaking proceeding, in accordance with statutory criteria.” https://www.federalregister.gov/articles/2014/07/10/2014-16018/federal-motor-vehicle-safety-standards-rear-impact-guards-rear-impact-protection

Here are some links on The Rulemaking Process: https://www.federalregister.gov/uploads/2011/01/the_rulemaking_process.pdf

So, hang in there with us. We’ve got a few more hurdles to sail over. Don’t look at the waves…

The thing is…we know the goal is worthy.