Positive Truck Safety Policy Surprises in Spending and COVID Relief Bill

Andy Young, January 11, 2021


Andy Young at IIHS Truck Underride Roundtable Crash Test – May 2016

Just before the end of 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2021 was signed into law. This spending bill provides $1.4 trillion to fund the Federal government’s fiscal year ending September 30, 2021 and $900 billion for coronavirus relief.

Several positive truck safety policy surprises have been mandated in the spending bill to help advance safety initiatives that are certain to save lives.  Specifically, the appropriations bill singles out the following key truck safety policies:

  • Large truck crash study – the spending bill reemphasizes concern about the significant increase in large truck crashes since 2009. The bill directs the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to continue funding a study aimed at analyzing the causes of large truck crashes.  It further directs the FMCSA to report back to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations  the progress and findings of the study.
  • Speed Limiters – the spending bill encourages the Department of Transportation to report to the House and Senate Committees on Appropriations its schedule to expeditiously address the public comments from NHTSA’s and FMCSA’s proposed rule on speed limiter devices on heavy vehicles. NHTSA and FMCSA have waited since August 26, 2016 to address the public comments.  Over four years is far too long for policymakers to address this important lifesaving initiative.
  • Truck Underride SafetyGAO Report — the spending bill directs NHTSA to implement recommendations contained in the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) report GAO-19-264 entitled “Truck Underride Guards: Improved Data Collection, Inspection, and Research Needed.” The recommendations are as follows:
  • NHTSA should recommend to the expert panel of the Model Minimum Uniform Crash Criteria to provide a standardized definition of underride crashes and to include underride as a recommended data field in all fifty-states’ crash reports;
  • NTHSA should provide information to state and local police departments on how to identify and record underride crashes;
  • NHTSA should conduct additional research on side underride guards to further understand the costs and benefits associated with side guards and, if warranted, develop standards for their implementation; and,
  • The FMCSA should revise Appendix G of the agency’s regulations to require that a commercial vehicle’s rear guards be inspected annually.

On December 29, 2020, the FMCSA immediately followed the spending bill’s directive by introducing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) entitled “Parts and Accessories Necessary for Safe Operation:  Rear Impact Guards and Rear Impact Protection.”  The FCMSA proposes to include rear impact guards on the list of items that must be examined as part of the commercial motor vehicle’s annual inspection.  The comment period for this lifesaving NPRM ends on March 1, 2021.  Please click here to weigh-in on this policy discussion by commenting with your support today!

  • Truck Underride Safety – Rear Impact Guards – the spending bill also directs NHTSA to complete rulemaking to improve rear guards to meet the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) standards. A 30-day strict time deadline has been imposed on NHTSA to report on their progress.  The IIHS standard requires rear impact guards to prevent underride of a midsize car traveling at 35 mph in three test modes: full-width, 50 percent overlap and 30 percent overlap.  On September 27, 2018, IIHS announced that all eight major trailer manufacturers have earned the “ToughGuard” award by meeting the IIHS standard. These eight major trailer manufacturers represent approximately 80% of the trailers on U.S. roadways.  IIHS is to be commended for establishing this new and improved industry-wide standard that will now likely be enacted into law.

A big thank you to lawmakers!

After decades of battling for truck underride safety initiatives and truck speed limiters, truck safety advocates can breathe a happy sigh of relief that progress is finally being made through the unlikely source of the omnibus spending bill and COVID relief package.  Here, at The Law Firm for Truck Safety, we celebrate these positive truck safety policy surprises knowing that they will help prevent crashes and tragedies from happening to others.  If you or a loved one have suffered a loss due to a truck crash, please contact us today to learn how to prevent these tragedies from happening to anyone else.

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