Back in 1989, the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute examined features proposed for improving truck safety. In other words, they reviewed NHTSA underride rulemaking from years past.
What they discovered was that a proposed underride rule in 1977 was opposed by practically “the entire trucking industry – both manufacturers and haulers.” The authors of this study noted “that failure to implement a rule on underride guards took place despite extensive research indicating their expected effectiveness.”
Like they still do today, the industry tried to turn “the discussion around by stating that underride avoidance should be looking at other measures”–ones that they would not be required to implement. “In particular it called for improving and modifying auto front ends to increase their energy absorbing capacity ‘. . . and protect them when they strike bridges, trees, other cars, and other objects, as well as trucks.'”
Today they are still raising the same sort of objections to improving underride protection:
“The trucking industry and manufacturers are not sure stricter federal regulations are needed – especially since many are voluntarily using tougher underride guards.
‘Underride guards are helpful in reducing the impact of cars crashing into trucks. We would however much prefer to see NHTSA focus on providing automobiles with the capability of preventing cars crashing into trucks,’ said Ted Scott, director of engineering for the American Trucking Associations, Inc. ‘Crash or collision avoidance technology can go a long [ways] in helping to eliminate rear end crashes. Educating automobile drivers on how to share the road with a truck is also very helpful in reducing rear end collisions.’
Today, I was discussing that article with my husband. Jerry commented that the Tesla underride crash clearly causes that argument to go out the window. A car with the most advanced collision avoidance technology still could not avoid a deadly side underride.
Note: I appreciate the progress made in underride prevention by at least 4 major trailer manufacturers. And I appreciate the involvement in our Underride Roundtable by many members of the trucking industry. Ted Scott was the first one to say that he would participate in one when it was still just an idea in my head and is also participating in the follow-up efforts to reach a unified consensus recommendation to NHTSA.
But that does not mean that I will stop seeking further action (even when it requires standing firm against controversy) when so much more can be done to save lives.
Our family had a paper route for 13 yrs.–afternoons during the week & mornings on the weekend. All 9 kids were involved. We know all about getting out the news–rain or shine, hail or white-out!
Tomorrow, our local paper in NC will be publishing an article about AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety & our Vision Zero Petition. Please share the news with your local media so that people in your community can become aware & help our effort. Stay tuned for details; we will post the link.
Note: The article in the Rocky Mount Telegram will actually be delayed until next week due to the storm. Here are some previous articles on our story by Brie Handgraaf.
Great shout out to one of the major safety innovators in auto racing. How many lives has Dean Sicking’s work saved? http://usat.ly/1E21Xws “
I called Dean and told him our story; then I asked him if he thought he could use the same technology to design safer underride guards. He said, “Yes!” And, a few weeks later, he sent me a detailed proposal for an Underride Prevention Research Project:
The only problem is that we have not found anyone who is putting money toward underride research. Not a priority. So, now we are launching a fundraising campaign to raise $200,000 to fund Dr. Sicking’s Underride Research Project–along with a college senior design underride project and additional promising underride research by engineers who share our concern about the current underride requirements and think that they can come up with a more effective solution.
Plans are also underway for an Underride Roundtable in Spring 2016 to bring together engineering experts and industry representatives. We also hope to publish a compilation of all this underride research to be made available in print as well as downloadable.
Please help us prevent future unnecessary deaths due to underride crashes. Every $1 contributed to this cause will help us toward our goal of supporting underride research, which will make it possible to manufacture safer trucks and, as a result, save other families the heartache of such tragic loss.
AnnaLeah & Mary for Truck Safety is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization and is eligible to receive contributions that may be tax deductible for the donor. Your donation will help fund research that will save lives!
From the Society of Automotive Engineers’ (SAE) facebook page:
“REAL WORLD ENGINEERING: Marianne Karth’s goal is to prevent more deaths from truck-related crashes like the one that claimed the lives of two of her daughters. She is seeking designs for improved heavy vehicle underride prevention structures.”
Designs sought for improved heavy vehicle underride prevention structures.
WARRENDALE, Pa., July 8, 2015
Current truck underride regulations too often do not prevent underride crashes—which led to 2401 fatalities in 2013. “In a detailed study of 115 rear truck crashes (not all fatal, and including all large truck types, not just tractor trailers), we found that 46 percent involved underride that extended beyond the bottom of the windshield (i.e., the truck intruded into the passenger compartment). When restricting to the 28 crashes that were fatalities, this rises to 82 percent.” (Matthew Brumbelow based on his research: Evaluation of US Rear Underride Guard Regulation for Large Trucks Using Real-World Crashes,http://www.iihs.org/iihs/topics/t/Large%20trucks/bibliography/bytag )
Engineering students and professionals will take on the challenge of creating an underride prevention system that will surpass the current U.S. and Canadian standards. Key design interests include offset impact, misaligned vehicle paths, and occupant survivability. Design is based upon a light passenger vehicle and dry van semitrailer interaction.
Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) No. 223 and Canadian Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (CMVSS) No. 223 describe the energy absorbing and mechanical deflection required for semi-trailers rear underride structures. NHTSA has initiated rulemaking for FMVSS No. 224 and No. 223. In the interest of this rulemaking, noteworthy designs will be presented to the NHTSA Deputy Administrator.
The objective is to attain underride prevention up to 50 mph at any degree of offset. The designs must be demonstrated to be practical in the context of the trucking environment. The hoped-for outcome is saved lives.
Last evening, Jerry and I had a Skype phone call with Dr. George Rechnitzer from Melbourne, Australia. We had been corresponding with him via email for a few days, and he finally decided that we needed to have an actual conversation.
We had discovered the day before that George had done research twenty years ago to prove that more effective underride guards could be designed, built, and crash tested on actual trucks–at 75 km/h or 46 m/h.
George, a professor and researcher from Australia who has done research with Transport and Road Safety Research (TARS) authored this 315-page dissertation in 2003: The Improvement of Heavy Vehicle Design To Reduce Injury Risk In Crashes With Other Road Usershttps://www.filesanywhere.com/fs/v.aspx?v=8b6a69875e67767ca2a4
(photo of our amazingly expressive Mary letting the world know her displeasure)
For far too long, the focus has disproportionately been on crash prevention solutions –at the expense of seriously examining the potential for innovative underride prevention solutions to prevent death when a truck crash actually does occur.
I just became aware of a research paper published in 1996 which clearly showed the potential for more effective underride protection: DEVELOPMENT AND TESTING OF ENERGY ABSORBING REAR UNDERRUN BARRIERS FOR HEAVY VEHICLES by George Rechnitzer http://trid.trb.org/view.aspx?id=477219 (presented at the 1996 International Technical Conference on the Enhanced Safety of Vehicles in Melbourne, Australia, which is sponsored by NHTSA).
Please take note of the insight into truck crash fatalities which he describes in the Introduction (pp. 9-10):
“The conspicuous slow progress in reducing well-known and solvable hazards, is well illustrated by crashes involving heavy vehicles. Problems with heavy vehicle design
have been documented for decades, as illustrated by this 1928 Times newspaper report
“‘Dr F.J Waldo, the senior Coroner for London, stated yesterday that
during the past year he had held 63 inquiries into deaths due to road
accidents. Deaths were caused in 20 cases by lorries or commercial vans –
without side life guards which are compulsory on motor omnibuses. Nine
deaths were caused by private motor vehicles and eight by motor
omnibuses. Pedal cycles caused eight largely on account of skidding and
the fixture of a wheel in the grove of the tramlines. There were also six
deaths by horse vehicles, five by taxicabs, four by steam lorries two by
charabancs and one by fire engine. One sixth of the number occurred
among children and young people in the city.’
“Since that time, heavy vehicle design has not improved significantly in regard to
reducing their harm potential in crashes with other road users. In Australia, heavy
vehicle crashes contributed around 18% of road deaths overall, representing in the 10
years 1983 to 1993 around 4000 fatalities and 17000 seriously injured. Most at risk are
the “other road users” making up 80% of these fatalities.
“This thesis’ findings, based on the author’s extensive in-depth crash investigations and
literature review, identify that the lack of compatibility, and aggressiveness of heavy vehicle design is a major causal factor leading to the over-representation of heavy vehicles in serious injury and fatal crashes. These findings counter the commonly held
notions maintaining that the main problem is the mass of the heavy vehicle – a factor
that is not readily amenable to change. Importantly, the study clearly identified that design changes to heavy vehicles can be effective in reducing the injury risk to other road users.
“This body of the thesis presents the author’s work on the development of applied
countermeasures involving the design, and crash testing of effective rear underrun
barriers, both rigid and energy absorbing. The energy absorbing system developed is
innovative as it uses a fibreglass tube as the crushable medium contained with two
concertinaing steel tubes. The Research provides the basis for the development of new performance criteria for effective rear underrun barriers catering for centred and offset impacts. At the time this work on the new system was being developed, it was the first of its type (to the author’s knowledge) in the world.
“The thesis concludes with presenting the important concept that crash protection for
occupants is a function of the nature of the interface between the impacting vehicles
and /or the person. This hypothesis provides an alternate perspective on what is feasible
in occupant protection in severe impact scenarios. It clearly shows that contrary to a
common view in road safety, vehicle mass per se is not the major determinate of injury
outcomes. Indeed this thesis demonstrates that injury protection is feasible against high mass vehicles be they trucks, trams or trains, by appropriate design of the interface between impacting objects.”
Here’s a photo of AnnaLeah in 1996 — when much of this research was available but apparently largely ignored — and Mary was a twinkle in her daddy’s eye.
So many lives could have been saved. If only. . . And why has this unconscionable* situation been allowed to go on for so long?! Enough is enough!
* excessive, unreasonable, unwarranted, uncalled for, unfair, inordinate, immoderate, undue, inexcusable, unforgivable, unnecessary, needless; informal over the top http://tinyurl.com/qgdhadv
You might be enlightened by the history of federal rulemaking on underride guards (found in the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s testimony in May 2009, in which they call for tougher underride guard standards) http://tinyurl.com/phlaqon (pasted below):
The history of Federal rulemaking on truck underride guards:
1953 Interstate Commerce Commission adopts rule requiring rear underride guards on trucks and trailers but sets no strength requirements.
1967 National Highway Safety Bureau (NHSB), predecessor to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), indicates it will develop a standard for truck underride guards.
1969 NHSB indicates it will conduct research on heavy vehicle underride guard configurations to provide data for the preparation of a standard. In the same year the Federal Highway Administration publishes a proposal to require trailers and trucks to have strong rear-end structures extending to within 18 inches of the road surface.
1970 NHSB says it would be “impracticable” for manufacturers to engineer improved underride protectors into new vehicles before 1972. The agency considers an effective date of January 1, 1974 for requiring underride guards with energy-absorbing features as opposed to rigid barriers.
1971 National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends that NHTSA require energy-absorbing underride and override barriers on trucks, buses, and trailers. Later in the same year NHTSA abandons its underride rulemaking, saying it has “no control over the vehicles after they are sold” and “it can only be assumed that certain operators will remove the underride guard.” The Bureau of Motor Carrier Safety (BMCS), predecessor to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration, considers a regulatory change that would prohibit alteration of manufacturer-installed equipment. This would nullify the major reason NHTSA cited for abandoning the proposed underride standard.
1972 NTSB urges NHTSA to renew the abandoned underride proposal.
1974 US Secretary of Transportation says deaths in cars that underride trucks would have to quadruple before underride protection would be considered cost beneficial.**
1977 IIHS testifies before the Consumer Subcommittee of the US Senate Commerce Committee, noting that devices to stop underride have been technologically available for years. IIHS tests demonstrate that a crash at less than 30 mph of a subcompact car into a guard meeting current requirements results in severe underride. IIHS also demonstrates the feasibility of effective underride guards that do not add significant weight to trucks. IIHS petitions NHTSA to initiate rulemaking to establish a rear underride standard. The agency agrees to reassess the need for such a standard and later in the year announces plans to require more effective rear underride protection. BMCS publishes a new but weak proposal regarding underride protection.
1981 NHTSA issues a proposal to require upgraded underride protection.
1986 IIHS study reveals that rear guards designed to prevent cars from underriding trucks appear to be working well on British rigs.
1987 European underride standard is shown to reduce deaths caused by underride crashes.
1996 NHTSA finally issues a new standard, effective 1998.
** And how many deaths due to underride crashes are underreported? For example, ours was listed on FARS (NHTSA’s Fatality Analysis Reporting System) as “Passenger Compartment Intrusion Unknown.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been relentlessly drawing attention to this issue for some time now, including this video:
IIHS Status Reports with articles on underride guards: