NHTSA Proposes Underride Upgrade

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will upgrade its underride regulations by adopting Canadian standards.  

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced that it will upgrade its underride regulations by adopting Canadian standards.

The announcement revolved around a pending notice of proposed rulemaking (NPRM) that is expected to be published soon in The Federal Register.  When it does, stakeholders will have 60 days to comment on the proposal. 

It was the second major underride action the agency has taken in 2015.  Earlier this year, NHTSA published an advance notice of proposed rulemaking on rear underride crash protection and visibility conspicuity of single unit trucks.

“A key component of DOT’s safety mission is ensuring that trucking, an essential element in our transportation system, operates not just efficiently, but safely,” U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx said. “Today’s proposal is another important step in that effort.”

The proposal is expected to have little impact on the truck trailer manufacturing industry in general.  An estimated 93% underride guards being installed on U S trailers today are already being built to the Canadian standards.  The major difference is the higher strength requirements of the Canadian standards.  They require a 35-mph test procedure, rather than the 30-mph test specified in the U S regulations.

The agency polled individual members of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association and determined that 93% of truck trailers are already meeting the requirements of the Canadian standards.

Additionally, the proposal would retain exemptions currently in effect for trailers, such as pole and logging trailers and wheels-back vehicles.  Nevertheless, NHTSA estimates, on average, that the annual incremental material and fuel cost would be $13 million to ensure that all applicable future trailers and semitrailers in the U.S. fleet will be built to the more rigorous standards.

NHTSA also proposes to adopt the Canadian definition of “rear extremity”—the reference point for mounting underride guards. 

“The change is intended to ensure that aerodynamic fairings are located within a certain safe zone at the rear of the trailer,” NHTSA writes in its announcement.  “The safety concern about them is that they generally extend beyond the rear extremity of trailers and thus can negate the crash protection provided by underride guards. That is, there is a possibility that a boat tail can protrude so far rearward that it can intrude into the passenger compartment in a crash and cause injury, notwithstanding the presence of an upgraded underride guard.”

Comments on the today’s NPRM on trailer and semitrailer rear underride protection can be submitted to the docket up to 60 days after publication in the Federal Register.

To view the announcement and the NPRM, click  here.


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