On June 25, 2014, after a tour of the research & design center of a truck trailer manufacturer in Georgia, I wrote down these perplexing thoughts about the too-long unresolved underride problem:
Now, it is understandable, amid the multitude of demands and the tyranny of the urgent, that—without a ready solution, in fact, one which would require time and money to develop—this problem has not been given much attention. But, if those who bear responsibility for making sure that this problem gets solved (one way or another) had lost two of their beloved children—or any other loved one—I can guarantee you that they would have moved heaven and earth to find a way to prevent underride.
What makes it even more distressing is that there are many individuals and organizations, who truly seem concerned about safety, including the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), and the trailer manufacturers. Yet, from what I can see, very little communication has taken place to move this problem forward from point A (guards that fail and result in death and/or horrific injuries) to Point B (coming up with a better design that will provide the best protection possible). Underride Guards: Can we “sit down at the table together” and work this out?
From where I stood, there seemed to be no light at the end of the tunnel for this life-ending/changing problem. I had lots of ideas about what needed to be done but no sense that any thing was going to get done about it any time in the near future.
So, in trying to process what we learned at the meeting, I kept thinking over and over: Could an independent work group of qualified individuals, such as an engineering school, take on the challenge of creating such a design—which could then be tested by IHHS, proposed to NHTSA to aid in defining improved rear impact guard specifications, and provided to all trailer manufacturers? Could we do some kind of crowd funding or grant proposal to obtain the necessary funds to support such an endeavor? Could we perhaps even approach the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) and ask them to seek contributions from their members for such a project?
Is cost truly not a factor? Is safety really a priority and not a competitive matter? Is it possible to improve the communication necessary to prevent more unnecessary deaths? Can we “sit down at the table together” and work this out?
I am so happy to be able to say that at the Underride Roundtable, one week from now on May 5, 2016, over 65 representatives from the trucking industry, government, safety advocates, engineers, crash reconstructionists, attorneys, and media will be on hand at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s Vehicle Research Center to”sit down at the table together” and discuss and demonstrate truck underride crashes.
This group will include representatives from:
- Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association
- American Trucking Associations
- Seven Hills Engineering
- Airflow Deflector
- Accident Research Specialists
- Sapa Extrusions
- Truck Safety Coalition
- AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety
- Insurance Institute for Highway Safety
- Virginia Tech Transportation Institute
- Virginia Tech
- East Carolina University
- National Transportation Safety Board, Office of Highway Safety
- National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
- J. Hunt Transport
- Batzer Engineering
- Injury and Crash Analysis
- Vanguard Trailer
- Smart Cap Technologies
- UNC Highway Safety Research Center
- Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety
- Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center
- Interstate Distributor
- NYC Citywide Adminstrative Services
- Nurenberg Paris Law Firm
- Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance
- Sanders & Parks Law Firm
- The University of North Carolina at Charlotte
- North Carolina Department of Transportation
- Cargo Transporters
- Stoughton Trailers
- Great Dane Trailers
- North Carolina State Highway Patrol
- City of Boston, Mayor’s Office of New Urban Mechanics
- Interstate Distributors
- Media representatives
- Underride victims and families
- and joined by an unknown number of individuals globally as the event will be livestreaming at this webcast link.
It is unfortunate that, over the decades in which no adequate solution to this tragic problem has come about, there has been much miscommunication, misunderstanding, misinformation, and mistakes made. I, for one, am ready to encourage things to move forward with positive momentum–aiming for the best possible underride protection.
In my morning reading, I was reflecting on some verses in Mark 11, which reminded me that the outcome is not totally dependent on me or any of the others who will be gathering in Ruckersville, Virginia, next Thursday. Instead, we are to. . .
“Have faith in God. Truly I say to you, whoever says to this mountain, ‘Be taken up and cast into the sea,’ and does not doubt in his heart, but believes that what he says is going go happen; it shall be granted him. Therefore I say to you, all things for which you pray and ask, believe that you have received them, and they shall be granted you.” Mark 11:22-24
And one more key thing, no matter what has and has not been done during the decades following the discovery of the horror of underride, we all need to forgive, put the past behind us, and find ways to work together to overcome this challenge.
“And whenever you stand praying, forgive, if you have anything against anyone; so that your Father also who is in heaven may forgive you your transgressions.” Mark 11:25
And though we may forgive, we will never forget those we have lost and the reason we are here. . .