The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association has sent official comments to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration opposing any side underride guard mandate.
On Thursday, July 20, OOIDA submitted comments to NHTSA opposing the agency’s advance notice of proposed rulemaking seeking to mandate the installation of side underride guards on commercial vehicles. The Association points out the many previous failed attempts at such a mandate.
“Over the last several years, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has considered numerous options involving side underride guards, but has consistently concluded a federal mandate would be impractical and costly, thus outweighing possible safety benefits,” OOIDA President Todd Spencer states in the comments. “Advancing any side underride mandate disregards this reality and ignores the safety, economic, and operational concerns that have been raised by small-business truckers.”
The Association notes that NHTSA estimated that the actual number of fatalities associated with side underride was 78% higher than reported in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS). However, the report only examined one-year of crash data from 2017.
“NHTSA must examine a wider range of FARS data in conjunction with other sources to more accurately assess estimated injury target population,” OOIDA states in the comments. “The 2017 police crash report (PCR) review using FARS data did not account for critical information such as road conditions or geographic area.”
OOIDA also is concerned about the costs associated with a side underride guard mandate.
The latest NHTSA research estimated that the total discounted annual cost of equipping new trailers and semitrailers with side underride guards ranged between $970 million and $1.2 billion.
That estimate does not account for potential damage caused by curbs, roundabouts, raised humps on roads, speed bumps in parking lots, loading dock ramps and various other highway features that the equipment would encounter.
LISTEN: OOIDA speaks against underride guards
The Association argues that cost barriers can force small-business trucking operations out of the industry.
“Experienced truck drivers are the safest drivers and we need to do everything possible to keep experienced truckers in the workforce and keep our roadways safe,” OOIDA states. “An experienced driver is much safer than an inexperienced driver relying on unproven technology. NHTSA notes throughout the (advance notice of proposed rulemaking) that the costs would range in the thousands of dollars for carriers and drivers. These higher costs will be especially detrimental for small-business truckers and independent owner-operators, who are the safest and most experienced drivers across the industry.”
The Association points out several safety issues posed by the installation of side underride guards.
According to OOIDA, installation of side underride guards would create challenges for truckers navigating high curbs, properly utilizing spread-axle trailer configurations, conducting DOT-required trailer inspections and accessing vital equipment located under the trailer.
Weather also can pose a safety threat.
“Further, we would want to know if these devices can withstand poor weather conditions, including cold temperatures, wind, rain, ice and snow,” OOIDA states. “Would drivers be able to safely remove accumulation that might build up on the equipment during inclement weather? These are just some of the possible practical questions and concerns that NHTSA would need to consider prior to formulating any type of side underride guard requirement.”
Another safety concern is traversing highway-rail crossings. OOIDA has heard from drivers the dangers of driving through highway-rail crossings with side underride guards attached to their trailers.
“Nobody cares about road safety more than truck drivers and every single truck driver wants to operate in a safe environment to return home just like drivers in passenger vehicles,” OOIDA states in comments. “NHTSA has considered numerous options involving side underride guards, but has consistently concluded a federal mandate would be impractical and costly, thus outweighing any safety benefits. Any potential mandate also fails to recognize numerous other issues limiting the practicality of side underride guards. The latest NHTSA analysis indicates that a side underride requirement comes with a roughly $1 billion price tag without even accounting for various operational cost estimates. Any move by the agency to advance such a measure is premature and shortsighted.” LL