U.S. considers annual underride guard inspections

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WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) is looking to add rear impact (underride) guards to the list of annual inspection items on commercial motor vehicles.

While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations have required rear impact guards for more than 65 years, they are not included among the inspection items. This means that a vehicle can pass an annual inspection with a missing or damaged rear impact guard – although the rear impact rules already require that they remain installed and in safe and proper operating conditions at all times.

Proposed changes would see rear underride guards inspected annually. (Photo: istock)

In a petition asking for the change, the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) noted that a vehicle’s rear impact guard/rear end protection is inspected at roadside. However, the majority of commercial motor vehicles do not come into contact with an inspector on an annual basis.

Several senators asked the General Accountability Office (GAO) to review data on truck underride crashes and information on underride guards. Between January 2018 and March 2019, it conducted a performance audit that included a literature review and interviews with stakeholders familiar with underride crashes and guards.

GAO Report GAO-19-264, published in March 2019, concluded that the lack of an annual inspection requirement potentially affects the safety of the traveling public.

The FMCSA is also looking to align the regulations with updated National Highway Transportation Safety Administration regulations that exclude RCC horizontal discharge semitrailers from the rear impact guard requirements.

RCC horizontal discharge trailers are used to deliver asphalt to road construction sites and gradually discharge asphalt mix into paving machines.

Typically, the paving machine attaches to the rear axle of the RCC horizontal discharge trailer via hydraulic arms, and the edge of the trailer’s conveyor belt extends over the paving machine opening. A rear impact guard required by the FMVSS would prevent the RCC horizontal discharge trailer from effectively connecting with a paving machine.

Another change that would adopt NHTSA requirements allows for the rear impact guard certification label to be mounted on either the forward- or rearward-facing surface of the guard’s horizontal member, provided the label does not interfere with the retroreflective sheeting required by the FMVSS.

Comments on the proposal are being collected until March 1 and can be submitted here.

  • This article originally appeared at www.truckinginfo.com, and is published under an editorial sharing agreement between Heavy-Duty Trucking and Today’s Trucking magazines.
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Deborah Lockridge is editor in chief of Bobit Business Media’s Heavy Duty Trucking and Truckinginfo.com. She has covered trucking since 1990 and has been with HDT since 1998. The award-winning writer is known for her in-depth coverage and insightful commentary on topics ranging from driver fatigue to counterfeit parts to supply chain issues.

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