Federal regulators want to update safety standards by including rear underride guards on the list of items that must be examined as part of required annual inspections for every truck.
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) proposed rulemaking, scheduled to be published on Tuesday, follows recommendations from the U.S. Government Accountability Office last year and a petition from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance seeking the change.
Federal regulations have required rear impact guards for more than 65 years. However, they are not included on the list of components that must be inspected during the annual commercial vehicle inspection, as outlined in Appendix G of the “Minimum Periodic Inspection Standards” section within federal commercial trucking rules. This means, from a practical standpoint, that a truck can pass an annual inspection with a missing or damaged rear impact guard.
“FMCSA assumes that the majority of motor carriers currently inspect rear impact guards annually despite the absence of an explicit requirement to do so,” the agency stated in its proposal. It cited data showing that out of approximately 5.8 million regulatory violations identified during inspections in 2017, only approximately 2,400 – or about 0.041% – were rear impact guard violations.
For that reason, “the agency believes that amending Appendix G to include a review of rear impact guards … would result in only a de minimis economic impact,” it stated.
The FMCSA’s proposal excludes certain trucks involved in road construction from the underride inspection requirements because it would interfere with the intended function of the trailer. The proposal would also amend certain labeling requirements for rear impact guards.
Legislation introduced in the U.S. House and Senate seeking to strengthen underride guard regulations – including requiring the retractive installment of front and side impact guards – were introduced in 2017 but failed. Reintroduced in March 2019, the “Stop Underrides Act” has been strongly opposed by large trucking groups, including the American Trucking Associations and the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association (OOIDA), citing cost and other factors.
“Nothing has changed over these years,” said OOIDA President Todd Spencer in a statement last year. “Proponents of this effort have given little consideration to the impact that front and side underride guards would have on the daily operations of truckers. Truck drivers would face serious challenges navigating grade crossings, high curbs and numerous other road conditions. Additionally, no front underride equipment is currently on the market because the concept lacks any practicality.”
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