The U.S. Government Accountability Office this week released a new report on truck underride guards, offering four recommendations to the U.S. Department of Transportation about improving data collection, inspections and more for the devices.
GAO’s study found that fatalities reported from underride crashes accounted for less than 1 percent of total traffic fatalities between 2008 and 2017. The audit, evaluation and investigative arm of Congress also found, however, that underride crash fatalities “are likely underreported due to a variability in state and local data collection.”
The study notes that police officers responding to crashes don’t use a standard definition of an underride crash and states’ crash report forms vary, with some not including a field for underride data. Given these variables, the agency says the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration likely doesn’t have accurate data on underride crashes to support efforts to reduce traffic fatalities.
As a result of its study, GAO made the following recommendations to DOT:
- NHTSA should update the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria to provide a standardized definition of underride crashes and to include underride as a data field.
- NHTSA should provide information to state and local law enforcement on how to identify and record underride crashes.
- The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration should revise Appendix G of its regulations to require that rear underride guards are inspected during annual commercial vehicle inspections.
- NHTSA should conduct additional research on side underride guards to better understand their effectiveness and costs, and, if warranted, develop standards for their implementation.
Regarding side underride guards, a bill was reintroduced in Congress in March that would mandate the guards on trailers if passed. As of April 16, the bill in the U.S. House has been referred to a subcommittee for review, while the Senate version has seen no action since it was introduced.
During its study, GAO asked trucking industry stakeholders about the feasibility of side underride guards and was told there were concerns about the additional weight the guards would add, the clearance of trailers with the guards, and the effects on under-trailer equipment and access.