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Trucking Organizations Disagree on Side Underride Guard Rule

08/03/2023 18:18

Last July 2023 marked the conclusion of the comment period for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding the implementation of side underride guards on large trucks.

People were given the opportunity to voice their opinions and concerns on this matter, and now the administration will carefully consider the feedback received before making any decisions.

Upon thorough analysis of a substantial number of feedback, including over 1,900 online comments and mailed submissions, two key observations can be made.

1. The proposed regulation has generated a stark contrast in the opinions of the two industries.

2. The trucking industry has expressed significant opposition to the proposal, while the League of American Bicyclists has garnered ample support for its endorsement of the rule. This divergence in perspectives highlights the challenging task of balancing the interests of multiple stakeholders in regulatory decision-making.

The General Public's Opinion

Numerous individuals who expressed their support for the proposed regulation initiated their written remarks by stating that they are aligned with the League of American Bicyclists' commentary on Docket No. NHTSA-2023-0012: Side Underride Guards.

These individuals also extended their gratitude for the opportunity to provide feedback on the Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) concerning side underride guards on large trucks, semi-trucks, semi-trailers, and larger vehicles, as it is a critical matter for road users who are at higher risk of harm like truck crashes, fatal crash, underride accidents, underride fatalities.

According to the League of American Bicyclists, a significant percentage of bicyclists and pedestrians who die on roadways are involved in accidents with large trucks considered as fatal truck crushes. To be precise, 11 percent of bicyclist fatalities and 7 percent of pedestrian fatalities are attributed to such crashes. It is necessary to have guards in place to prevent such incidents, as the number of vulnerable road user deaths in collisions with large trucks between 2016 and 2020 was 2,745.

The proposal for the implementation of side underride guards has garnered support from various organizations such as the Institute for Safer Trucking and Road Safe America.

According to them, side guards are crucial safety devices that should be installed in as many trailers and semitrailers as possible to prevent unnecessary loss of life and injuries.

Currently, many accidents occur due to the design flaw of vehicles that endanger passenger vehicle occupants and vulnerable road users who collide with the side of a trailer or semitrailer and travel underneath.

The implementation of side guards is a viable solution to tackle this pressing concern and enhance the safety of our roads, benefiting all those who utilize them. Not only should side guards be required on trailers and semitrailers, but also on single-unit trucks to ensure maximum protection.

 

It Comes as Little Shock that the Trucking Sector Has Expressed Substantial Disapproval of the Suggested Mandate

As Per Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has recently expressed its opposition to the proposal regarding underride guards. They have emphasized that truck drivers have always been dedicated to ensuring road safety and that every driver, regardless of the vehicle they operate, desires to return home in a safe and secure manner. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has evaluated several options for side underride guards but has consistently determined that a federal mandate is not a practical or cost-effective solution, and may even outweigh the potential safety benefits. Additionally, many other factors limit the practicality of side underride guards. Based on the most recent analysis conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the implementation of a mandate pertaining to side underride could potentially result in an approximate cost of $1 billion. It should be noted that this estimate does not account for any associated operational expenses.Therefore, the agency's proposal to advance this measure is considered to be premature and shortsighted.

As Per American Trucking Association

The American Trucking Associations expressed their disapproval in a similar vein. The ATA has officially expressed their objection towards the proposed integration of side underride protection in all recently constructed trailers, as stated in their official statement. Furthermore, the ATA expressed gratitude for the opportunity to share their perspective on this matter and offered to provide supplementary information regarding their policies, safety, and operational concerns, as well as examples of the issues they described. The ATA recommends that the Department of Transportation adopts a more comprehensive approach to preventing side underride crashes as part of a wider strategy for crash prevention. Additionally, the ATA encourages the Advisory Committee on Underride Protection to explore various technologies and strategies that may help to mitigate these kinds of accidents.

As Per Truckload Carriers Association

The Truckload Carriers Association has voiced its disapproval of the suggested regulation in its current form. The organization stated in its remarks that its members have apprehensions about an industry-wide requirement for the proposed equipment, as detailed in the ANPRM.

  • Insufficient alternatives at hand often result in a shortage of empirical evidence.

  • The progress achieved in implementing safety precautions is noteworthy.

  • However, it is important to acknowledge that accidents cannot be entirely avoided.

  • By introducing supplementary factors, such as additional weight, we can enhance the efficacy of our preventative measures.

As Per Werner Enterprises

According to a statement from Werner Enterprises, a prominent transportation company headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska, the company has aligned with the American Trucking Associations' stance in opposing the implementation of mandatory side underride protection on newly manufactured trailers. While Werner Enterprises recognizes the importance of improving safety technology on tractors and trailers, the company believes that further research and crash tests are necessary before such a mandate can be enforced.

As Per American Truck Dealers

The American Truck Dealers have indicated that additional research is necessary prior to mandating the implementation of side underride guards. The association acknowledges the potential benefits of these guards in reducing the risk of serious injury or death resulting from collisions with CMV trailers and semitrailers in certain situations. They support NHTSA's efforts to gather additional data through the ANPRM to assess the occurrence of CMV side underride crashes. However, due to inadequate research and data, as well as the high costs and negative effects on CMV operators and carriers, the ATD does not advocate for a mandate for side underride guards. They urge NHTSA not to proceed with a formal rulemaking on this matter.

As Per NATM

The National Association of Trailer Manufacturers has expressed its disapproval of the proposed rulemaking and highlighted the need for a more nuanced approach. The proposed regulation aims to improve safety on the roads by reducing the risk of passenger vehicles sliding underneath the sides of trailers during collisions. While this is a commendable goal, the Association believes that the rule is overly broad and fails to take into account the differences between heavy- and medium-duty trailer designs. The Association is urging the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to carefully consider the language used in the rulemaking and to specify which category of trailer the side underride rule would apply to. This will ensure that the requirements are appropriately calibrated to the many different trailer product categories, which vary widely in nature and usage.

The opposition was further bolstered by the contribution of individuals who expressed their dissenting views

As Per Rebecca Reed

Rebecca Reed has expressed her concern over the mandate of side underride guards on commercial semi-trailers. She believes that such a requirement would incur significant expenses for companies, ranging from hundreds to thousands of dollars per trailer in installation costs. Moreover, the added weight of these guards may negatively impact the profitability of businesses.

Reed also highlights potential issues that may arise with trailers equipped with side underride guards, such as scraping against pavements, curbs, and landscaping in situations like railroad crossings and uneven docks. This could result in damage to both the equipment and obstacles.

Thus, there is a need for careful consideration of the costs and benefits associated with mandating side underride guards on commercial semi-trailers. Companies must weigh the expenses of installation against the potential safety benefits of such equipment and the potential for damage in certain situations.

It is important to consider the practicality and potential safety implications of a mandate that requires guards to be installed on the underside of trailers. One potential concern is how drivers and maintenance personnel will be able to properly inspect equipment when they cannot easily access certain parts of the vehicle without removing the guards. Additionally, it is crucial to ensure that these guards can withstand the weight of snow and ice in colder climates without compromising the structural integrity of the trailer. In the event of an accident, these guards may create additional obstacles for first responders or exacerbate the severity of the accident. Furthermore, it is important to consider the potential risks to train operators if a trailer becomes stuck on the tracks and a train is unable to stop in time. These are all important factors to take into account when evaluating the feasibility and safety of this mandate.

As Per James Sullivan

According to James Sullivan, the underride guard proposal is not favored by him. It is his belief that federal regulatory agencies ought to redirect their focus from truckers to more effectively inform the general public on safe practices for engaging with commercial trucks.Sullivan asserts that continuously implementing new regulations on the industry that is responsible for moving the economy is not wise. This approach only increases the burden on small businesses that are already struggling. Additionally, it is worth noting that the majority of accidents involving heavy trucks are caused by four-wheelers.

The trucking industry has long been a crucial part of our economy, and with the increasing importance of goods transportation, safety on our highways is of paramount concern. However, it seems that the focus has always been on the truck side of things. Perhaps it's time to reevaluate our approach and recognize that the real issue lies with the motoring public.

As a veteran of this industry with 38 years of experience and over 3 million accident-free miles under my belt, I feel that my perspective is often overlooked by those who have little understanding of what it's like to drive a truck. It's concerning to see rules and regulations being made without taking into account the practical realities of the job.

It's crucial that we change our thinking to ensure the safety of all drivers on our highways. Otherwise, the trucking business may suffer, as will our standard of living. Let's work together to find solutions that prioritize safety and acknowledge the unique challenges that come with driving a truck.

Conclusion: Evaluating the Impact and Finding a Balance

In conclusion, evaluating the impact and finding a balance is crucial when considering the proposed side underride guard rule.

While it is undeniable that such a regulation could potentially save lives by preventing fatalities in certain accidents, it is important to also take into account the potential drawbacks and challenges that trucking organizations may face if this rule were to be implemented. Commercial trailers, Commercial motor vehicles, trailer basis, Semi - trucks, semi - trailers, commercial vehicle, or other heavier trucks are on watch for this crash protection rule. Advance notices are also expected from the Federal Agency once the rulemaking process proceeds. 

One key consideration is the cost of retrofitting existing trucks with side underride guards. It is estimated that this conversion could cost trucking companies millions of dollars, an expense that many organizations may struggle to afford. There are also underride guard standards or underride standards that should be monitored. This financial burden could lead to smaller fleets being forced out of business or passing on the costs to consumers through increased shipping fees. Business truckers should remain profitable. Moreover, this should not be a burden on truckers for potential lay off.

Another aspect worth considering is the practicality and effectiveness of side underride guards in all real-world scenarios. While they have been proven effective in some instances to prevent fatal truck crashes, there are situations where their benefits might be limited or even nonexistent. For example, in collisions involving higher speeds or unusual angles of impact, side underride guards might provide little protection. Speed limits and speed limiters matter more than other life-saving devices. There are Lateral protection devices, protective devices, latest accident prevention technology, collision avoidance technology, or advanced technologies that could be prioritized. Benefit estimates and accurate estimates of these tech should be gauged.

Finding a balance between safety concerns and industry feasibility will be essential moving forward. Collaborative efforts between regulatory bodies and trucking associations can help explore alternative solutions or compromises that achieve both goals without placing an undue burden on trucking companies. Striking this equilibrium will ensure improved road safety while still allowing businesses within the transportation industry to thrive.

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