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NTSB: NHTSA should beef up tractor-trailer safety regulations p2

An “override” accident is exactly what it sounds like. The smaller vehicle in an accident slips under the larger one. With tractor-trailers, rear-end accidents have traditionally been the high-risk situations: There are guards that hang from the rear of the trailer, but experts question just how effective they are. The National Transportation Safety Board, in fact, says that the standards for rear guards need to be updated.

In the report we started talking about in our last post, the NTSB also addresses the danger of override in side-impact accidents. According to the board, approximately 500 people die every year in tractor-trailer underride accidents, and many of those fatalities occur in side-impact crashes.

The board urges the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to require manufacturers to install updated side-underride protection systems on all new tractor-trailers — both the cabs and the trailers. The board also wants the NHTSA to update the rear-underride guard standards.

The last few recommendations in the report speak to the lack of data gathered on trucks and trailers that have been in crashes. Information about the trailer is particularly hard to come by.

Police regularly record the vehicle identification number, make and model of the truck in accident reports, but there is no information about the trailer. The board’s research found that both state and federal databases were missing crash data about the trailers.

The same way accident data about sedans can show safety issues with design and production processes, data about trailers in accidents could help the industry develop safer trailers. Not all rigs are the same; without this information, it’s impossible to compare models much less to know which designs have superior safety features.

The NTSB only makes recommendations, though. The NHTSA drafts and issues new safety regulations. That process can take some time. Perhaps the only good outcome from the horrendous bus-truck crash in California a couple of weeks ago will be renewed momentum to turn recommendations into rules.

Sources: 

The Trucker, “NTSB offers 7 recommendations to improve truck safety,” The Trucker News Services, April 4, 2014

National Transportation Safety Board, Safety Recommendations to the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration, April 3, 2014 accessed online at NTSB.gov

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