Tag Archives: NHTSA

Why Has the Truck Underride Problem Been Left Unchecked for Decades?

Truck underride is what frequently happens when a passenger vehicle collides with a large truck. Because the truck was unfortunately defectively designed to be above the level of the crush zone of the smaller vehicle, the passenger vehicle goes under the truck and the crashworthy safety features of the car are not able to work. Or, to put it another way, the truck enters the occupant space of the passenger vehicle — too often resulting in horrific death and debilitating injuries.

Hundreds of people die this way every year — the victims of senseless, preventable death by underride.  Yet, for decades, this problem has been left unchecked. Little has been done to preserve the occupant space and make truck crashes more survivable. Why is that?

Basically, the government has waited for the trucking industry to prove that it could do something to prevent these deaths. The trucking industry, for its part, has been waiting for the government to tell it whether or not, and how, to address this problem — before devoting R & D resources to it in order to come up with solutions. Meanwhile, the unsuspecting traveling public is left vulnerable and precious blood continues to be needlessly spilled on our roads.

Stalemate. Catch 22. Limbo. Standstill. Impasse.

The STOP Underrides! Bill will break this deadlock and get the ball rolling so that creative engineers can put effective underride protection on every truck — resulting in more truck crash survivors who can live to see another day.

This bill has been drafted by Senator Kirsten Gillibrand. On December 12, 2017, Senator Gillibrand, Senator Rubio, and Congressman Steve Cohen will be introducing it in Congress.  They are all seeking Republican co-sponsors for this long-overdue, life-saving legislation.

Sign & Share the STOP Underrides! Bill Petition here: Congress, Act Now To End Deadly Truck Underride!.

Find out more about underride at our Underride Guards Page.

“Even if cost-benefit analysis is theoretically a neutral tool. . . it is biased against strong public protections.”

Recently, NHTSA announced statistics for 2016 traffic fatalities:

  • 37,461 people killed in crashes on U.S. roadways in 2016
  • Up 5.6% from 2015
  • Tucked in the back of the report, if you look for it, you will see that there were 4,317 fatalities in crashes involving large trucks — up 5.4% from 2015, the highest since 2007.
  • Of those, 722 (16.7%) were occupants of large trucks and 10.8% were nonoccupants
  • 72.4% of the truck crash fatalities were occupants of other vehicles, or 3,125.5 (Do I round that up to 3126? Now that really bothers me because this is about people who died in a crash with a truck last year and not merely statistics!)

If you look at NHTSA’s press release, here is their summary:

The 2016 national data shows that:

  • Distraction-related deaths (3,450 fatalities) decreased by 2.2 percent;
  • Drowsy-driving deaths (803 fatalities) decreased by 3.5 percent;
  • Drunk-driving deaths (10,497 fatalities) increased by 1.7 per­cent;
  • Speeding-related deaths (10,111 fatalities) increased by 4.0 percent;
  • Unbelted deaths (10,428 fatalities) increased by 4.6 percent;
  • Motorcyclist deaths (5,286 fatalities – the largest number of motorcyclist fatalities since 2008) increased by 5.1 percent;
  • Pedestrian deaths (5,987 fatalities – the highest number since 1990) increased by 9.0 percent; and
  • Bicyclist deaths (840 fatalities – the highest number since 1991) increased by 1.3 percent.

Do you see the 4,317 truck crash fatalities mentioned there? I don’t! Yet they accounted for 11.5% of the total traffic fatalities.

Is that indicative of what I tend to observe — the truck crash fatalities are considered a transportation issue and left to the trucking industry to solve? And so potential lives saved always lose out in any cost/benefit analysis, and we all know who ends up paying the price for this unresolved public health & safety crisis.

Along that line, check out this interesting read about cost/benefit analysis (which agencies have to do in rulemaking) related to safety regulations. . . https://www.foreffectivegov.org/node/2332

Even given the many uncertainties of cost-benefit analysis, proponents still argue that it acts as a neutral tool. Yet, as David Driesen points out, “if CBA only makes regulation weaker, and never strengthens overly weak regulation, it cannot improve priority setting and consistency in the manner its proponents envision.” Driesen lays to rest the argument of CBA’s neutrality by dissecting the use of CBA both in practice and theory. Driesen finds that both in OMB’s implementation of cost-benefit analysis as well as in the assumptions of the cost-benefit analysis itself, CBA is weighted in favor of the regulated industry and against health, safety and environmental protections.
Driesen focuses his look at cost-benefit analysis on the role of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA), a subagency of the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) charged with carrying out cost-benefit analysis through Executive Order 12866. According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, between June of 2001 and July of 2002, OMB “significantly affected 25” environmental, health and safety regulations. If cost-benefit analysis is in practice a neutral tool, then OIRA’s use of cost-benefit analysis to review regulation would sometimes strengthen protections and sometimes weaken them. Driesen found that none of OIRA’s changes made environmental, health or safety protections more stringent, and 24 out of the 25 weakened protections. Even if cost-benefit analysis is theoretically a neutral tool, in the hands of this administration, it is certainly biased against strong public protections.
 OMB tends to see cost-benefit analysis as a criterion under which the cost of implementing a regulation can never exceed the benefit. Another option is that cost-benefit analysis is used as a criterion under which cost must always equal benefit, optimizing the efficiency of the regulation. Driesen shows that in each case cost-benefit is not a neutral tool and will always favor the regulated community over the health, safety and environmental regulation.
Previous posts on this issue:

History of Truck Underride Recommendations in the U.S.

A senator’s Office recently asked me to provide them with a one-page history of reports and recommendations made on the truck underride problem in the U.S. Here it is (with clickable links):

Truck Underride Reports & Recommendations in the U.S.

Just in: Truck Underride Statistics by State From NHTSA & IIHS

Yesterday I contacted NHTSA and IIHS and asked them if they would be able to look at their data on underride deaths and break them out by State. They both graciously made it a priority and created some new charts, graphs, and a map.

The pdf from NHTSA has data taken from the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS), by which NHTSA collects information on fatal crashes from each state. This extensive chart covers the time period of 1994 to 2015, showing underride deaths when the initial collision was at the front, side, and rear of trailers — first for the country, followed by a similar format for each state. Numbers are shown one year at a time and then totaled:

Passenger Vehicle Underride Fatalities by State, 1994-2015, by NHTSA

Please remember that it is well-known that underride deaths are under-counted in these charts. In fact, Lois Durso and I both have found that our daughters deaths are not accurately reported in these charts.

We also received a graph of underride deaths by State for 2015 from Matt Brumbelow at the IIHS. Specifically, these are “2015 Passenger vehicle occupant fatalities in 2-vehicle crashes with tractor-trailers.”

Matt asked me to explain further, “that 2015 is still the latest year of data that NHTSA has released.  Also, that while not all these crashes will have involved underride, our estimates based on other studies is that underride occurs in 80-90% of tractor-trailer rear and side crashes with serious/fatal injuries.”

PV Fatalities in Truck Crashes 2015 per IIHS

U.S. Map PV Fatalities Truck Crashes in 2015 per IIHS

I hope that these visual and informative tools will aid us, as a nation, in addressing this tragic but preventable public health problem.

Australian Engineer Comments on U.S. Underride Protection

See a paper by Raphael Grzebieta and George Rechnitzer here: Proposed Australian/New Zealand AS/NZS 3845.2 Standard for Truck Underrun Barriers: Design, Testing and Performance Requirements

2 Moms, Sick & Tired of Waiting, Draft Truck Underride Legislation

March Historically a Momentous Month for Truck Underride Safety Advocacy; Beware the Ides of March!

Heading for DC to Discuss the Need for the Best Possible Underride Protection on All Trucks

This is why we are working so hard to get better underride protection. This is why I am getting up early tomorrow morning to get on Amtrak headed for DC to meet with DOT and the Senate Commerce Committee. Pray for fruitful meetings.

COMPARE THIS: A real-life underride death prevented by a new rear underride guard: New Stoughton Rear Underride Guard Proven Successful In Real Life Crash; Driver Survives

TO THIS: A real-life rear underride tragedy in a crash into an old, weak, and ineffective rear underride guard: Carroll deputy killed in crash

Within a week’s time, 1 driver survived a crash with a trailer, 1 driver did not.

Seems like a no-brainer to me to require that all of the 15.5 million trucks on the road have the best possible underride protection.

Note: How many trucks are on the road?

 2016 Top 25 North American Truck-Trailer & Chassis OEMs









Side Guard Petition Book Part 1

Side Guard Petition Book Part 2

Side Guard Petition Book Part 3

See recent Public Comments to NHTSA. You, too, can speak up to end preventable truck underride.

You, too, can let NHTSA know what you want them to do about the problem of preventable truck side underride. In addition to signing the Side Guard Petition which we have launched online, you can also post a comment directly to NHTSA on the Federal Register.

Although the official Public Comment period is closed, comments will still be posted and taken into consideration by NHTSA, as they have not yet put together a Final Rule on truck underride protection.

I have received notifications the last few days regarding new postings to the Federal Register of Public Comments from people asking DOT/NHTSA to mandate side guards! I am assuming that this is in response to my request for people to do so to help bring about change. 🙂 See the recent Public Comments here:

You can do it, too! SUBMIT a Public Comment to DOT/NHTSA here: https://www.regulations.gov/docket?D=NHTSA-2015-0118 After you get to this site, click on the COMMENT NOW button.

Don’t forget to sign the Side Guard PETITION

Auto Safety Advocates Tell Obama To Stop Rush To Get Self-Driving Cars On Road

So, here’s a real-life scenario. What might a Traffic Safety Ombudsman do in this situation?

Auto Safety Advocates Tell Obama To Stop Rush To  Get Self-Driving Cars On Road; Pull Back Autonomous Vehicle Technology ‘Guidance’ Expected Next Week http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/newsrelease/auto-safety-advocates-tell-obama-stop-rush-get-self-driving-cars-road-pull-back-autonomo

A coalition of auto safety advocates today called on President Obama to stop his “administration’s undue haste to get autonomous vehicle technology to the road” until enforceable safety standards are in place.  They said the administration’s autonomous vehicle “guidance” expected next week should not be issued. . .

“If the manufacturers, including the high-tech companies, lack the confidence in their products to stand behind them and assume responsibility and liability when the systems they design are in control, and innocent people are injured or killed as a result, those vehicles do not belong on the road,” the letter said.

“The administration should not succumb to Silicon Valley hype about the miracles of autonomous vehicle technology. Autonomous vehicle technologies hold the promise of improving safety. But that promise can only be realized after thorough testing and a public rulemaking process that results in enforceable standards” the letter concluded. 

Consumer Watchdog Letter to Obama:  http://www.consumerwatchdog.org/resources/ltrobamaav071316.pdf

Indeed. Make SAFETY a priority. Once someone dies in a crash, they never come back.

2 crash deaths

SIGN  & SHARE the TRAFFIC SAFETY OMBUDSMAN Petition:  https://wh.gov/i6kUj

PLEASE NOTE: If you sign the petition, be sure to go to your email. We the People will send you an email which will say this in the subject line:  “Almost done! Verify your Petitions.WhiteHouse.gov account.” Follow the instructions to verify your signature.


Strick to recall 2005-2009 van trailers for faulty rear impact guard. Discovered in 2014. Recall in 2016.


Strick Trailer is recalling certain single-axle 28-foot van trailers for a rear-impact guard issue, according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration document.

More specifically, 2005-2009 van trailers manufactured July 25, 2004, to Feb. 3, 2009, and equipped with rear-impact guards using gussets 55997 and 55998 are affected. Gussets on affected trucks can increase the chances of injury during a crash, thereby violating Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard No. 223, “Rear Impact Guards.”

In March 2014, Strick discovered that the gussets may not have been verified using prescribed test procedures, according to the NHTSA document. Tests conducted in April 2014 confirmed that the gussets violated FMVSS 223.

Owners will be notified by Strick to have reinforcements installed to the rear-impact guards at no cost. For more information, contact Strick’s customer service at 260-692-6121. The recall will begin on June 17.

– See more at: http://www.landlinemag.com/Story.aspx?StoryID=31159#.VzsfwfkrK70

Okay, I am glad that this is being taken care of, but I only hope that it will be done thoroughly and completely and without delay. And, by the way, if the problem was discovered in March 2014, why is the recall only beginning on June 17, 2016? What took so long?

Trip North May 2015 031

A grieving dad got the attention of the trucking industry & made a difference.

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.

Underride Roundtable TimelineUnderride Roundtable May 5, 2016 141Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 169Underride Roundtable May 5, 2016 007

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.

Nurenberg, Paris, Heller & McCarthy ALMFTS facebook banner

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.

Never forgotten

To read additional posts which I wrote as a follow-up to the Underride Roundtable, go here:  Underride Roundtable Follow-up Posts