We are circling back to our discussion about the National Transportation Safety Board's recommendations regarding tractor-trailer safety standards. The recommendations went to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in the hope that the agency will adopt them quickly. To date, we have talked about the problems of blind spots for big rigs.
When we left off in our April 21 post, we had moved on to underride guards. These are the barriers that slow a smaller vehicle on impact, reducing the risk that it will slide under the tractor or the trailer. (The industry uses the term "passenger compartment intrusion" to describe an unfavorable outcome.)
The NHTSA has standards for rear underride guards, but they are badly out of date, according to the NTSB. The recommendation is to update those standards and to add standards for side underride protection systems. As it did with blind spot mitigation measures, the board recommends required enhancements for new vehicles.
Researchers had trouble even gathering data about truck accidents. Ironically, the NHTSA noted the difficulty of data analysis in its April 2010 report, "The Effectiveness of Underride Guards for Heavy Trailers" (available at www.nhtsa.gov).
Police reports of passenger crashes include the vehicle identification number, make and model of each vehicle involved. In truck accidents, they do not. The information for the truck-tractor may be there, but there is no information for the trailer. As a result, it is impossible to compare safety information for different makes and models. The board recommends that this information be collected in every accident.
The board's request for a response within 90 days indicates its sense of urgency, but the board has no enforcement authority with the NHTSA or, for that matter, with truck manufacturers. The hope is that the NHTSA and other federal regulators will also sense the urgency and act quickly and definitively.
Source: The Trucker, "NTSB offers 7 recommendations to improve truck safety," The Trucker News Services, April 4, 2014