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The Anticipated Postponement of the Trailer Side-Guard Regulation Until at Least October 2024

A prospective regulation mandating the installation of safety equipment on trucks to avert fatalities in crashes involving both trucks and passenger vehicles may not be operational until at least October 2024, if it even comes to fruition.

Regulatory Review Process

This initiative is part of the U.S. Department of Transportation’s latest regulatory agenda, as forwarded to the White House’s Office of Management and Budget. It involves the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) assessing public feedback on its proposal concerning the addition of side underride guards on trailers and semi trailers. This process of reviewing comments is expected to last for about ten months.

Public Feedback and Timeline Adjustments

The public had the opportunity to comment on this proposal during a 90-day period following the NHTSA’s advance notice of the proposed rulemaking, which was published in April. Historically, the time frames indicated in such agency agendas are prone to change, often resulting in delays.

NHTSA’s Deliberations and Industry Feedback

Thus, if the NHTSA decides to advance to the formal notice of proposed rulemaking stage for the implementation of side underride guards, this could take at least an additional year. NHTSA is currently balancing the need to amend this proposal substantially or possibly abandon it altogether after receiving varied opinions from groups advocating for truck safety and those representing the trucking industry.

Cost Implications of Side Underride Guards

According to the agency’s calculations, installing side guards on trailers, which prevent passenger vehicles from sliding underneath in collisions, would increase the cost of a new trailer by about $3,740 to $4,630. The total yearly cost of this implementation is estimated to be between $970 million and $1.2 billion.

Safety and Insurance Groups’ Concerns

However, this calculation by the NHTSA — projecting approximately 17 lives saved and 69 serious injuries prevented annually if underride guards were made compulsory — is deemed to be an underestimate by various safety and insurance organizations.

FMCSA’s Upcoming Regulations

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) also has plans to introduce two novel regulations in 2024. The first, slated for publication in June 2024, will explore minimum training requirements for new commercial motor vehicle operators, with a focus on women’s safety and sexual harassment in the workplace. The second regulation, expected in July 2024, aims to revise the driver qualification standards for commercial truck drivers affected by epilepsy or other conditions leading to loss of consciousness while driving.

Withdrawal of the Unique ID Proposal

In an interesting turn of events, a controversial proposal that sought to mandate all trucks to be equipped with a unique identification number for better roadside inspections has been seemingly abandoned. This proposal, which sparked over 2,000 comments after its November 2022 publication and was initially set for a full formal proposal in November, has now been excluded from the most recent regulatory agenda. This proposal, while favored by truck safety advocates, faced considerable opposition from the trucking industry.

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