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NHTSA initiates rulemaking to consider rear underride changes, possible sideguard requirement

July 10, 2014

Using a petition submitted by an anti-trucking group as a springboard, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) announced in the July 10 Federal Register that it is launching a rulemaking into possible changes for rear underride guards on straight trucks and tractors. No timeline was announced for a proposed rule.

The notice to initiate rulemaking came in response petition for rulemaking submitted by the Truck Safety Coalition. That petition requested that the agency improve the safety of rear impact (underride) guards on trailers and single unit trucks. Based on the petition, available information, and the agency's analysis in progress, NHTSA has decided that the Petitioners' request related to rear impact guards merits further consideration.

NHTSA officials say the agency is planning to issue two separate notices--an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the petitioners' request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

On September 12, 2013, members of the Truck Safety Coalition met with the Secretary of Transportation to discuss their petition for rulemaking on truck safety issues. The Petitioners requested a standard requiring improved underride guards be issued, and that the Department of Transportation begin studies and rulemakings for side guards (sometimes called bicycle guards in Europe) and front override guards.

In additional correspondence from the petitioners to the Department of Transportation following the meeting, the petitioners stated that if the federal motor vehicle safety standards (FMVSSs) for rear underride guards were amended to be equivalent to Canadian motor vehicle safety standards, injuries and fatalities could be avoided. Moreover, the petitioners stated that all trucks and trailers should be required to be equipped with energy absorbing rear impact guards mounted 16 inches from the ground with vertical supports mounted 18 inches from the side edges.