Safety critics argue new U.S. underride guard rules are not tough enough

Two safety groups are calling on U.S. regulators to further strengthen underride guards, arguing that coming rules which largely mirror Canadian standards do not go far enough.

The Truck Safety Coalition and Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety filed the petition calling on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to revise the final rule that they call “inadequate and alarming.”

“For those of us who have lost loved ones in these incredibly violent underride crashes, the rule is exasperating and heartbreaking,” said Truck Safety Coalition board member Jennifer Tierney, whose father was killed in an underride crash.

(Photo: iStock)

The groups note that 94% of commercial vehicles already comply with updated rule rule and criticized regulators for dropping a directive that would have required the barriers to be effective at 35 mph (55 km/h) when 30% of the passenger vehicle overlaps the guard.

“There is no sound excuse for the rule, at a minimum, to not meet the test the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has been using to rate rear underride guards for the last five years, especially considering nine major trailer manufacturers meet it,” said Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety president Cathy Chase.

The IIHS standards are voluntary.

Updated U.S. rules are designed to better protect occupants of light vehicles at crash speeds up to 56 km/h. Previous standards were based on speeds of 48 km/h, and the upgraded guards will need to withstand higher forces when a car hits a guard straight on, or when the front half of a car overlaps a trailer’s back end.

Manufacturers will need to comply with the updated rules two years after they’re formally published in the U.S. federal register.

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