We lost AnnaLeah and Mary in an underride crash on May 4, 2013. As we began to discover things about underride in the months after our crash, we determined to help bring about change. But by June 2014, when we had met with DOT and toured Great Dane’s Research & Design Center in Savannah, we realized that there was very little communication and collaboration going on among the various stakeholders — government, manufacturers, engineers, researchers, safety advocates, etc. That’s when we thought about the idea of an Underride Roundtable.
We figured that if someone, who could do something about underride, lost a loved one in an underride crash, then they would move heaven & earth to solve the problem. Not willing to wait, we began to take action ourselves to try and bring about the best possible underride protection. By the time the first Underride Roundtable took place at the IIHS on May 5, 2016, we had made many contacts and had begun to see meaningful progress in underride protection.
But we knew that that was still not enough when, on March 14, 2017, Lois Durso and I attended the Senate Commerce Committee Hearing at which an update on Truck Safety was given. We were disturbed that side underride was not even mentioned — having already witnessed successful side guard crash testing of Aaron Kiefer’s TrailerGuard System and knowing that we would, in a few weeks, see crash testing of Perry Ponder’s AngelWing side guard.
That was when we decided that we were sick & tired of waiting for someone else to do something about it and began drafting the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection (RAM CUP) Act of 2017 ourselves. Since that day, we have been talking and writing about this important legislation ceaselessly with all of the stakeholders, including many legislative offices both Republican and Democrat.
So you can perhaps imagine our excitement when we got a call in July from Senator Gillibrand’s staff with the news that the Senator wanted to work with us to introduce this bill. Not only that, but her plan was to wait and introduce it with Republican support to enable it to move forward. And that is where we are at, hoping to hear soon that a Republican from each House will soon join Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Cohen to set the ball rolling on a mandate which will result in comprehensive underride protection on all trucks.
While we, like anyone else, want to see the advancement of crash avoidance technology, we think that it is also vital to act to make crashes, which do occur, more survivable. Both/and not either/or. Thus we wait expectantly for the introduction of the Stop Underrides Bill as a truly bipartisan effort to bring about a long-overdue solution to a ubiquitous public health and safety problem.
A few days ago, after posting about the fantastic news from Wabash — and after earlier in the week posting about Stoughton’s announcement of stronger rear guards being standard on their new refrigerated trailers — I ran across this post which I wrote in May (be sure to pay attention to what industry leaders have said about innovation, technology, and regulation, and think about how it applies to the underride issue): Truck Industry Leaders: “Clarity is probably the biggest need we have so we can plan accordingly.”
Mandates take burden off manufacturers. Crash tests in labs better than crash tests occurring in real world.
Clearly, we have begun to see effective communication and collaboration taking place. We are thankful for the efforts of so many and encouraged at how the industry is making great strides. We know that it will continue to require a multi-prong strategy and that a comprehensive underride regulation can create a framework for us all going forward. It is for that reason that we included in the Stop Underrides Bill a requirement for a Committee On Underride Protection (COUP) because we want to ensure that the collaboration will not be just an idea but a reality.
We hope that we can count on the support of everyone involved to persevere in this process. And we want to end with this final thought: We know that rear underride guards have been known at times as Mansfield Bars, and we think that Roya, AnnaLeah and Mary would have been tickled pink if side guards — or the entire comprehensive underride protection system — would become known as Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Guards — or more simply, RAM Guards.
Jerry and Marianne Karth
Stay Tuned for an Upcoming Underride Briefing in the Capitol Visitors Center, Room 215, October 12, 2017, 2:30 – 4:00 p.m. Experts will be available to answer questions about the underride problem & solutions.