U.S. Begins Effort to Improve Underride Crash Protection

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The U.S. government has taken what it said is the first step in a larger initiative to upgrade the standards for truck and trailer underride crash protection.

The Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has released an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking that focuses on rear underride crash protection and visibility of single unit trucks (SUTs), to gather input from the public and stakeholders on the estimated cost and benefits of safety strategies for these vehicles.

The rulemaking defines SUTs as trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR) greater than 10,000 pounds with no trailer and are primarily straight trucks.

The agency is requesting comments about requirements for rear impact guards on new SUTs and reflective material on the rear and sides of these vehicles.

NHTSA estimates that a requirement for rear impact guards on SUTs could save five lives and prevent 30 injuries each year, and would cost approximately US$669 million to equip approximately 342,000 vehicles.

A requirement for reflective tape on SUTs could save up to 14 lives per year with a cost of approximately US$30 million annually, for approximately 579,000 new SUTs, according to NHTSA.

Rear impact guards would provide underride protection to occupants of vehicles crashing into the rear of trucks and reflective material would improve visibility of these vehicles to other motorists and help drivers avoid these crashes in the first place, according to proposal.

“If we can raise the public’s awareness of large trucks and help trucks be more visible to others on the road, we can reduce the number of fatalities and injuries in underride crashes – or prevent these crashes from happening in the first place,” said NHTSA Administrator Mark Rosekind.

NHTSA is issuing the ANPRM following the granting of a petition last year by truck safety advocates for rulemaking regarding possible amendments to the federal motor vehicle safety standards relating to rear underride guards. The agency plans to issue a notice of proposed rulemaking on requirements for rear impact guards on trailers later this year.

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