Rear impact guards are an important component of truck safety, and while essentially all trailers have them, they are not all created equally. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has published a final rule to raise the minimum safety standards.
The published final rule is 107 pages long, but in a very abridged version, it increases the standard shock the rear impact guard must be able to withstand and be able to prevent passenger compartment intrusion if the collision is at 35 miles per hour, up from the current threshold of 30 miles per hour.
Not sure if your current rear impact guards pass this test? There is a very good chance that they do. Nine major trailer manufacturers and 94 percent of all trailers exceed this standard.
The NHTSA argues that the juice is worth the squeeze, however, as it estimates requiring the other six percent of trailers to catch up costing around $7 million but state it would save one life and seven serious injuries every two years moving forward.
Safety advocates say that this standard does not go far enough, with former NHTSA administrator Joan Claybrook stating the new rule is a waste of time. “Instead of improving protections to reduce underride fatalities and injuries, the agency has gone backward by issuing a rule that 94 percent of trailers already meet.”
Alongside the announcement of requiring higher standards for rear guards, the NHTSA announced plans to enact other provisions of Biden’s Bipartisan infrastructure law, including looking into the potential benefits of side underride guards and improving the data collection on underride crashes and their damages.
Compliance will be required two years after the final rule enters the Federal Register. Assuming the regulation works as intended and the research on underride crashes proves to be fruitful, it is possible the NHTSA will raise the standard over time to include 40, 45, or even 50 miles per hour, though in the final rule they acknowledge that a higher standard comes with higher performance tradeoffs and costs. For now, the NHTSA is okay with simply making sure all trailer rear impact guards are “up to speed.”
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