Today, U.S. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand and Congressman Steve Cohen led 25 of their colleagues in a letter urging Department of Transportation (DOT) Secretary Pete Buttigieg to swiftly execute the provisions from their Stop Underrides Act, which passed in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. The legislation requires the creation of a rule within a year of enactment mandating trucks to have strengthened rear underride guards to stop cars from sliding underneath trucks in the event of a crash. In the letter, the lawmakers also call for DOT to initiate a study on the impact of side underride guards, solicit public input via an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM), and strengthen requirements on any new rule regarding rear underride guards.
“The provisions in our Stop Underrides Act will save lives and make our roads safer,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Deaths caused by underride crashes are preventable, and I’m urging the Department of Transportation to quickly implement these measures to help prevent future tragedies. Every day we don’t act, we are losing an opportunity to save the lives of innocent Americans.”
“I have long been an advocate of tractor trailer underride guards because I have witnessed the harm done to victims of these crashes and their surviving family and friends such as the death of Michael Higginbotham from my district who was killed in an underride crash in Memphis,” said Congressman Steve Cohen (TN-09), a senior member of the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. “I was proud to champion and see included several provisions of our bill, the Stop Underrides Act, in the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, and urge for their expeditious implementation so that we can prevent these horrific crashes and save more lives.”
An underride crash occurs when a car slides under a large truck, such as a semi-trailer, during an accident. When these accidents happen, a car’s safety features are rendered useless because most of the car slides under the trailer and the trailer undercarriage crashes straight through the windows and into the passengers. The passengers in the car often suffer severe head and neck injuries, including decapitation. These accidents are often fatal, even at low speeds. Each year, hundreds of people are killed in underride accidents, but this data is estimated to be undercounted due to differences in local police reporting.
The full text of the letter is available here or below:
Dear Secretary Buttigieg:
We write to you as members of Congress who supported the inclusion of the Underride provisions in the bipartisan Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (IIJA, P.L. 117-58). Signed into law on November 15, 2021, this legislation includes requirements for a rule on strengthened rear underride guards to be made within a year of enactment, the creation of a new Advisory Committee on Underride Protection, and the implementation of a study on the impact of side underride guards. These provisions are designed to address the urgent issue of preventable deaths caused by underride crashes, which occur when a car slides under the body of a truck, such as a semi-trailer, during a crash.
We urge the Department of Transportation (DOT) to provide clarification on the agency’s schedule for executing these requirements mandated by the IIJA to mitigate underride incidents. We also urge you to utilize the Department’s Office of Research and Technology in order to effectively find solutions for the Department’s Underride Initiative.
Additionally, we write to reiterate Congress’ intent on the aforementioned provisions and would like to see DOT, in coordination with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), initiate the following:
- Include the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) TOUGHGUARD level of performance for any strengthened rule on rear underride guards that the agency puts out. This performance standard can prevent underride at speeds of up to 35 mph in all three of IIHS’s rear underride tests — full-width, 50 percent overlap and 30 percent overlap.
- Consider moving forward with an Advance Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM) for side underride guards to solicit public input and information for the agency’s side guard research efforts. This is a public safety issue and we know these crashes are underreported. An ANPRM would assist in gathering all research on side underride guards, to ensure that your decision later this year – on whether to mandate side guards on semitrailer – is based on the most current technology and data.
- Use a nomination procedure for the Advisory Committee on Underride Protection similar to the FMCSA Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee process which allows the agency to solicit nominations, and also allows individuals to self-nominate. There are many “Stop Underrides” advocates whose issue area knowledge and personal experiences could bring unique perspectives to the Committee and deserve the opportunity to be considered.
We urge you to expeditiously establish the Advisory Committee on Underride Protection and to complete the life-saving side guard research which we hope will lead to a proposed rule on side guards. Together these provisions will help save lives and aim to prevent passenger compartment intrusion from crashes with trucks.
Thank you for the steps which you have already taken to address this public safety issue, and please do not hesitate to contact our staff if you have any questions.