The deadline for truck drivers to provide feedback regarding a possible side underride guard mandate is almost here.
The public has through Thursday, July 20 to file comments on the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking that analyzes the costs and benefits of side underride guards.
On April 21, NHTSA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking that aims to “assess the feasibility, benefits, costs and other impacts of installing side underride guards on trailers and semitrailers.”
NHTSA’s notice doesn’t formally propose a side underride guard mandate, but it fulfills a directive from Congress to analyze the potential effects.
The agency originally made the comment deadline June 20 but elected to give the public another month after the American Trucking Associations and other groups asked for an extension.
The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association opposes any attempts to mandate side underride guards, pointing to the cost and operational concerns.
Although NHTSA’s research estimates that a side underride requirement would save 17.2 lives and 69 serious injuries annually, the yearly cost of the mandate would be as much as $1.2 billion. According to the notice, the resulting cost per equivalent life saved would fall in the range of $73.5 million to $103.7 million.
Putting it in perspective for motor carriers, NHTSA’s research shows that the average total cost of installing side underride guards on a trailer, including hardware and labor, would be “$2,990 in 2020 dollars.”
Side underride guards also would add to fuel costs. With a weight increase of 450 to 800 pounds per trailer, requiring side underride guards is estimated to increase lifetime fuel costs for new trailers entering the fleet each year by somewhere between $200 million and $430 million, according to NHTSA’s notice.
“NHTSA’s latest research once again indicates there is absolutely no reason to mandate side underride guards on commercial trucks,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer said. “The rush to mandate every gadget marketed as a safety device over the objections of professional drivers is a major reason crash rates continue to rise. We will not see improvements in highway safety until lawmakers and federal regulators prioritize the expertise of professional drivers above other interest groups.”
Listen to Land Line Now to learn more about OOIDA’s opposition to a side underride guard mandate.
Since NHTSA published the advance notice in April, the agency has received about 2,000 comments.
Many truck drivers pointed to the cost, as well as concerns about getting caught on railroad tracks.
“Side underride guards are a very bad idea for many reasons,” truck driver Dave Sweetman wrote. “I cross railroad tracks with tall “humps” that will definitely damage or trap low-belly trailers with underride guards. I also loadunload at docks at entertainment venues that will damage or trap the trailer (high center). In addition, the cost of the equipment to add underride guards to trailers would be most definitely cost prohibitive, adding unnecessary and unrecoverable expense to equipment.”
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, however, argues that the equipment would save many lives.
“IIHS believes side underride guards have the potential to save many more lives than NHTSA has estimated in its cost-benefit analysis,” the group wrote. “We urge the agency to perform a more thorough analysis that does not depend on multiple assumptions that guards will provide no benefit outside a narrow range of conditions.”
The agency seeks information regarding the effectiveness of side guards, unexpected costs and benefits and challenges that would be created by a mandate.
OOIDA also created a campaign on its Fighting for Truckers website and a “Comment Guide” to help members through the process. LL