NHTSA issues final rule for rear underride protection, announces advisory committee on underride protection, and enacts critical safety mandates in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law
- The U.S. Department of Transportation’s National Highway Traffic Safety Administration today finalized a rule that updates two Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards to improve protection for drivers and passengers in light vehicles in the event of a rear underride crash.
These crashes, which are often deadly, occur when the front end of a vehicle crashes into the back of a larger vehicle, such as a large trailer or semi-trailer, and slides under that vehicle. This rule, along with increased research and the creation of an advisory committee on underride protection is the result of President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law and is a key part of USDOT’s 2022 National Roadway Safety Strategy.
“NHTSA’s priority is the safety of everyone on our roads,” said Dr. Steven Cliff, NHTSA’s Administrator. “This new rule will improve protection for passengers and drivers of passenger vehicles while also meeting a critical mandate from Congress under the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law.”
The rule requires rear impact guards on trailers and semi-trailers with sufficient strength and energy absorption to protect occupants of passenger vehicles in multiple crash scenarios – helping to keep drivers safe and prevent deadly crashes. The final rule amends FMVSS No. 223, “Rear Impact Guards,” and FMVSS No. 224, “Rear Impact Protection.”
In addition, NHTSA is implementing a number of other underride provisions of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, including:
- Establishing a Federal advisory committee on underride protection, which will complete research on side underride guards for trailers and semi-trailers to assess their effectiveness, feasibility, benefits, costs, and impact on intermodal operations.
- Planning to publish an advance notice of proposed rulemaking to consider requirements for side underride guards for crashes into the sides of trailers and semi-trailers. This rulemaking also responds to a provision in the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law to report the findings of research on side underride guards in a Federal Register notice to seek public comment.
- Improving data collection of underride crashes by recommending inclusion of underride data in State crash data systems and by providing educational materials to State and local police departments on identifying and recording underride crashes; and
- Conducting research on rear impact guard designs that better protect occupants of passenger vehicles in even more rear underride crash scenarios.
- “In its long-awaited rule on truck underride protection, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) appears to be out of sync with the Safe System strategy adopted by the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) earlier this year. We were pleased to see DOT adopt this strategy, but we also knew those were just words on paper. Success requires implementation of redundant safety interventions like better underride protection on trailers to ensure that a mistake on the roadway does not result in serious injury or death. NHTSA’s updated rule does not go far enough to be meaningful.
“For nearly 50 years, IIHS has pushed for stronger government regulations to improve rear underride guards on large trucks. While an updated standard went into effect in 1998, it was still too weak. Our research in the early 2000s confirmed that and showed that much more could be done to prevent underride. Building on our research and crash testing, we petitioned the federal government in 2011 to improve underride protection.
“The final rule issued by NHTSA on June 30 falls well short of addressing most of the concerns raised in our petition. While the new standard is an improvement over the old one, nearly all newly manufactured guards on trailers already meet this new standard, which is similar to a longstanding Canadian requirement. Meanwhile, IIHS crash testing and the TOUGHGUARD award we inaugurated in 2017 have pushed the largest trailer manufacturers to strengthen their underride guards well beyond this level, demonstrating that further improvements are feasible.
“To truly reduce the number of lives lost in underride crashes, NHTSA needs to incorporate changes that would require crash testing of guards when mounted on trailers, allow fewer exemptions for other kinds of trucks and improve protection in offset crashes. The Safe System strategy, if it is to be more than words on paper, requires NHTSA to take all these steps.”