On September 14, 2021, a petition was submitted to NHTSA to investigate and recall semitrailers due to the lack of side underride guards which would prevent catastrophic injuries and deaths.
Dear Secretary Buttigieg:
In accordance with 49 U.S.C. 30162 and 49 C.F.R § 552.1, please find our petition to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to promptly initiate a safety defect investigation into van-type or box semitrailers because of a known safety hazard and defect from collisions with passenger vehicles and other vulnerable road users (pedestrians, bicyclists, or motorcyclists) resulting in death and significant injuries due to a lack of side underride guards. This investigation will clearly demonstrate that NHTSA should issue a recall order pursuant to 49 U.S.C. §§ 30118(b), 30119, and 30120 for all van-type and box semitrailers that lack side underride guards.
Eric Hein, Jerry & Marianne Karth, and Lois Durso
We welcome letters of support to reinforce the importance of this vital recall.
On a Friday afternoon — February 26, 2021 — over 50 people met via Zoom to discuss comprehensive underride protection. The purpose of the meeting was to report on progress which has been made by several subcommittees since an earlier meeting in 2020 — including Industry Engagement, Research, and Engineering Subcommittees.
The goal of the Underride Engineering Subcommittee — to which trailer manufacturers were invited — was to create a Consensus Side Guard Standard which would provide additional insight for the development of a side guard regulation. Lengthy conversation and exchange of information has led this group to submit the following recommendation:
A side underride guard shall be considered to meet the performance standard if it is able to provide vehicle crash compatibility with a midsize car, to prevent intrusion into the occupant survival space, when it is struck at any location, at any angle, and at any speed up to and including 40 mph.
The Task Force went so far as to suggest that the Truck Trailers Manufacturers Association (TTMA) discuss the Consensus Side Guard Standard at their upcoming annual meeting in San Antonio, April 7-10, 2021. We encouraged them to come together in a Joint Agreement to adopt or improve the Consensus Side Guard Standard, as an association, and fast track the manufacturing of side guards by their 80th Anniversary in 2022.
Accept the standard; build a guard.
Sean O’Malley, Senior Test Coordinator at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), gave a presentation at the Side Guard Task Force. He stated that, “Everything we do here, we do to save lives. I wasn’t kidding when I said the rear underride program (ToughGuard) is what I’m most proud of. ” Trailer manufacturers responded to the IIHS creation of a safety marketplace for improved rear underride guards by working to meet the TOUGHGuardAward level of protection at the rear of tractor-trailers. Why then would they not do the same to meet the Consensus Side Guard Standard of protection at the sides of tractor-trailers — particularly since the IIHS supports it with their 40 m.p.h. test?
Underride is underride no matter with what part of the truck you collide — because the bottom of large trucks sit up higher from the ground than the bumpers of passenger vehicles. All the way around.
So now what do we do? Will we wait another 100 years? How many more lives have to be sacrificed?
Trucking companies could demand trailers with side underride guards. Trailer manufacturers could supply trailers with side underride guards. Or the government could mandate side underride guards — ideally with the support of industry because a government law or regulation will place all manufacturers on a level playing field.
Families of underride victims and engineers appealed to trailer manufacturers to take the bull by the horn, embrace the Consensus Side Guard Standard, and move forward with developing and installing side underride guards ahead of government requirements.
Today, I was reflecting on the Side Guard Task Force meeting and a strategy for action going forward. As I was looking up information on an engineer from one of the manufacturers, whom I’d met several years ago, I noticed that the manufacturer is making plans to hire an engineering intern for the Summer of 2021. Beautiful! Brilliant! How about we show this young intern how engineers can save lives.
Imagine engineering students from universities around the nation spending the coming year doing internships or senior capstone projects at trailer manufacturing companies working alongside industry engineers on side underride guard development. Collaboration could take place and serve to more rapidly bring about the development and implementation of long-overdue, life-saving technology.
Note: The Side Guard Task Force meeting on February 26, 2021, was a follow-up to an earlier meeting. On April 17, 2020, over 40 people participated in a virtual meeting of a volunteer Underride Protection Committee’s “Side Guard Task Force.” This included two engineers from trailer manufacturers. As a follow-up, several subcommittees began to hold virtual meetings, including an Underride Engineering Subcommittee.
After listening to Andy Young interview Eric Hein about the loss of his son, Riley, in a side underride, participants viewed a photo memorial slideshow of some of the countless underride victims:
Some of the many individuals and organizations who have made contributions to the work on underride protection were celebrated in this Underride Hero Hall of Fame video:
Note: the video of the complete meeting is an unedited Zoom recording. As excerpts from the agenda are created, YouTube video links will be added. – Marianne Karth