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NHTSA issues final rule on ‘underride’ guards for large trucks

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Washington — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has issued a final rule aimed at strengthening protections for drivers and passengers in light vehicles involved in “underride” crashes, which occur when vehicles strike the rear of large trucks and slide underneath.

Mandated under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, the rule updates Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards by adopting the provisions of a Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard that requires “rear impact guards with sufficient strength and energy absorption capability to protect occupants of compact and subcompact passenger cars impacting the rear of trailers at 35 mph,” an NHTSA rulemaking document states.

“This new rule will improve protection for passengers and drivers of passenger vehicles while also meeting a critical mandate from Congress under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law,” agency administrator Steven Cliff said in a June 30 press release.

Under the rule, NHTSA will enact multiple other provisions of the legislation, including:

  • Publication of an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to consider requirements for side underride guards for crashes into the sides of trailers and semitrailers.
  • Improving data collection of underride crashes by recommending inclusion of underride data in state crash data systems.
  • Completing research on rear impact guard designs that better protect occupants of passenger vehicles in additional rear underride crash scenarios.
 

At press time, the rule hadn’t yet been published in the Federal Register. NHTSA will accept petitions for reconsideration of the rulemaking until 45 days after publication.

Multiple advocacy groups say the forthcoming final rule, which was proposed in December 2015, is inadequate.

In a press release, Cathy Chase, president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, says the rule “is substantially weaker than the current test the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has been using to rate rear underride guards for the last five years.”

Similarly, IIHS President David Harkey said in a separate release that the updated rule “does not go far enough to be meaningful,” as a vast majority of manufactured guards already meet its requirements.

According to a notice published in the July 6 Federal Register, NHTSA is accepting until Aug. 5 nominations for an advisory committee on underride protection.

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