Safety rules must exist on the state and federal level to ensure trucks are manufactured in a responsible manner and to ensure use of all appropriate crash prevention and crash mitigation devices. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed two new additions to safety requirements applicable to single unit trucks. NHTSA rules go through a lengthy process before a new mandate is created. The NHTSA is soliciting comments on its proposed rules, which is one of the first steps in moving forward with new safety regulations.
Because NHTSA rules take a long time to be created, a serious risk of truck accidents can persist while the agency moves through a burdensome regulatory process. Truck drivers and trucking companies should be aware of best practices for safety and should consider implementing new safety technologies designed to save lives, even if NHTSA does not yet require them. Truck operators and other motorists on the road are also expected to exercise reasonable care at all times to prevent collisions, which goes beyond just following basic driving rules. It involves driving assertively and using common sense. If a truck is lacking basic safety equipment standard in the industry, or if a trucker is negligent and harm occurs as a result, victims affected by truck accident losses should understand their legal rights.
NHTSA Aiming to Reduce Truck Crash Risks
Both of NHTSA's proposed new rules are targeted at improving safety of single unit vehicles. Single unit vehicles are a distinct category of truck compared to tractor-trailers. These vehicles are all one piece, with engine, drive train, cab, and cargo area built upon a single chassis. Trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 pounds of greater, and that are a single compartment, are going to be classified as single unit vehicles and potentially subject to new NHTSA mandates.
The first new NHTSA rule would require use of effective rear under guards on single unit trucks. Rear under guards are widely known to reduce the risk of serious underride accidents and regulations impose requirements for underride crash prevention on most large tractor-trailers.
Underride protection is as simple as installing metal pieces under back (and side, in some cases) bumpers of trucks to stop a car from going underneath the truck when a collision happens. Without these protections, a vehicle that strikes a truck from the rear may slide underneath the truck and the passenger compartment of the vehicle will be intruded upon. The result is often serious injury or death.
The second new NHTSA rule would require use of reflective tape on single unit trucks. The purpose is to increase the visibility of these trucks for other motorists.
If the two new rules pass, an estimated 579,000 single unit trucks will need to add reflective tape, and another 342,000 vehicles will need to add underride protection. Hopefully, these rules will make a big impact as hundreds of thousands of trucks become safer and truck crash risks are reduced.