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NHTSA Updates Rear Impact Guard Standards

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has announced new rear impact guard standards that were finalized on July 7, 2022. These new standards are designed to improve the safety of commercial vehicles involved in rear-end collisions. According to the NHTSA, the updated standards will help reduce fatalities and serious injuries resulting from such collisions.

In this article, we’ll be taking a closer look at the role of rear impact guards and what the new standards set forth. We’ll also be discussing the challenges of installing rear impact guards and how fleet managers can ensure their vehicles are in compliance.

What Are Rear Impact Guards?

A rear impact guard, also known as a rear underride guard, is a device that is required by law to be attached to the back of all large trucks in the United States. The purpose of the rear impact guard is to prevent cars from sliding underneath the back of a truck during a collision.

In the past, there have been many fatal accidents in which cars have slid underneath trucks. This has caused serious injuries or even death to the occupants of the car. The rear impact guard helps to create a barrier between the two vehicles, preventing the worst from happening.

The rear impact guard can also help to reduce the severity of injuries in the event of an accident. Keeping the smaller automobile from sliding under the truck helps to reduce the amount of crush damage that occurs during a collision. As a result, rear impact guards can play an important role in reducing fatalities and serious injuries on our highways.

What Does the New Rule State?

This final rule upgrades NHTSA’s safety standards for rear underride protection in crashes of passenger vehicles into trailers and semitrailers. The upgraded protection will be provided in crashes in which the passenger motor vehicle hits: (a) the center of the rear of the trailer or semitrailer; and, (b) in which 50 percent of the width of the passenger motor vehicle overlaps the rear of the trailer or semitrailer.

Not everyone is particularly happy about it, with Joan Claybrook, NHTSA administrator in the Carter administration, telling FleetOwner Magazine, “It would have been better if NHTSA had not acted at all. Instead of improving protections to reduce underride fatalities and injuries, the agency has gone backward by issuing a rule that 94 percent of trailers already meet.”

Even so, Biden administration officials feel it’s an important step towards meeting these five key objectives:

  • Safer roads
  • Safer speeds
  • Safer vehicles
  • Safer people
  • Post-crash care

What are the benefits of installing rear impact guards

Politics aside, it really is important for fleet owners to take this decision as a reminder to inspect for rear impact guards on all their trailers and semi-trucks. The benefits include:

  • Minimizing legal liability in the event of a fatality or serious injury collision
  • Saving lives or reducing injuries
  • Protecting cargo from significant damage
  • Saving money
  • Peace of mind

How Can Fleet Managers Comply?

The good news, as Claybrook states: 94 percent of your equipment, give or take, is already in compliance. That means the most significant action you’ll need to take is to set eyeballs on your equipment to ensure most of what you own is already where it needs to be. If you do find that some of your trucks and trailers should be updated as a result of the Rule, order the guards you need and get those fleet assets to the yard or shop as soon as you can.

The potential challenges associated with installing rear impact guards include:

  • Cost: expected to be minimal to fleets nationwide at a total of $6-8 million
  • Availability of Guards: as with most items in post-pandemic America, you may experience supply chain issues with getting the new guards in a timely manner
  • Down Time for Installation: a truck that isn’t moving isn’t earning, so time is of the essence
  • Training Drivers on Proper Use and Maintenance

Despite the challenges, it is important for fleet managers to ensure their vehicles are in compliance with the new standards. The benefits of rear impact guards far outweigh the challenges associated with installing them. By taking the time to install rear impact guards, fleet managers can protect their drivers, their vehicles, and their cargo. In the event of an accident, rear impact guards could mean the difference between life and death.

Fleet managers and heavy-duty equipment operators can rest assured that J&A Fleet Maintenance is up to date on all the latest NHTSA standards for rear impact guards and any other part of heavy-duty transport. We can help ensure your vehicles are compliant and stay that way through whatever changes are to come. Give us a call today!

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