NHTSA and their contracted researchers have made questionable statements and left out of the conversation the effect of world harmonization of American safety standards.
Brazil when passing their historic rear underride regulation had a few undecided lawmakers left to convince to pass the legislation. The Underride Network lobbied the Clinton Administration that it was immoral to link only to rich friendly corporations from their transportation departments websites. We were successful and the U.S. government started linking to public interest groups including underride efforts and sites in Brazil at our request. Luis Otto the engineer leading the safety efforts in Brazil reported to us that the last few lawmakers were convinced by the U.S. DOT linking to their efforts.
Luis Otto Faber Schmutzler from UNICAMP states “motivated by the desire of saving human lives, whenever possible by applying the logic and philosophy of safety engineering, we present below a critical analysis of the new American Standards. This work is of fundamental importance, since at least in the developing countries, traffic agents will copy the so-called American solutions and in so doing will spread the tragedy worldwide…”
It is common for NHTSA to speak about a handful of preventable deaths from underride ignoring the alarming world statistics of tens of thousands of deaths and injuries due to lax safety laws in the U.S. and to a lesser extent the E.U., we set the standards. As Luis Otto reminds us “we spread the tragedy worldwide”.
In the past NHTSA has stated that trailer frames are too weak for side guards to protect cars in crashes without redesign. They have stated that additive speeds in front underrides are too high for protection of cars in crashes. A NHTSA contractor The University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (UMITRI) involved in many NHTSA studies on underride states ” With respect to side impacts, some crash geometries such as same direction sideswipes may be mitigated by side underride guards, if closing speeds are low enough to be managed by practical structures.”
The American public is informed over and over that it is not practical, it cannot be done. This is provable disinformation and undisclosed information.
APROSYS in the E.U. designed cheap and simple reinforced pallet boxes and attached them as side guards to trailers. They crash tested them at 40 mph or 62 km/h and they successfully protected mid-sized cars in crashes at 90 degrees. The trailer frames were undamaged, they protected cars in crashes without trailer frame reinforcement or redesign. Australian engineers have stated that their side underride crash tests show sufficient trailer frame strength for side underride protection.
“The size of an energy-absorbing truck front structure directly correlates to the survivable closing speed between car and truck in head-on collisions (e.g. 75 km/h (47 mph) survivable closing speed requires a 400 mm (1.3 feet) long energy-absorbing structure, 90 km/h (56 mph), requires 800 mm (2.6 feet)).” From Volvo Report
John E. Tomassoni (NHTSA engineer from the 1990’s)“It is expected that certain offset conditions could result in car rotation such that the passenger compartment may beneficially avoid intrusion entirely”.
NHTSA has had information from manufacturers and their own research since the early 1990’s that extending guards and rounding the ends to deflect cars in high speed crashes made even extreme speeds possibly survivable. Australia and Brazil crash tested rear guards at near 50 mph successfully with higher speeds suggested as possible since the 1990’s. When NHTSA asks for public input on critical safety issues they should disclose all of the data and cease engineers and contractors from making easily proven false claims. Side guards can be designed for high speed protection of cars in crashes, we simply need the political will to value finally human life.