NHTSA denies rear-impact guard reconsideration petition from safety coalition

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Trucking news and briefs for Thursday, June 27, 2024:

NHTSA stands by rule increasing rear impact guard strength

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration announced in a Federal Register notice to be published Thursday, June 27, that it has denied a petition for reconsideration of a 2022 rule beefing up standards for rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers.

That rule, published July 15, 2022, required rear impact guards to provide sufficient strength and energy absorption to protect occupants of compact and subcompact passenger cars impacting the rear of trailers at 35 mph. The rule aimed to better protect passenger vehicle occupants when they hit the center of the rear of a trailer and when 50% of the width of the vehicle overlaps the rear of the trailer, NHTSA said.

Following its publication, NHTSA received a petition for reconsideration from a coalition of safety groups, including Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates), the Truck Safety Coalition (TSC), Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), and Parents Against Tired Truckers (PATT), which argued the rulemaking didn’t go far enough. NHTSA said the coalition “disagreed with the data and analysis that the agency used for the final rule and asserted that NHTSA should require reinforced rear guards designed for the 30% overlap crash condition.” The petitioners further claimed the new standards were “inadequate and dangerous.”

NHTSA, in its denial of the petition, stood by the data it used in creating the rule, noting that the Trucks in Fatal Accidents (TIFA) database it used is more accurate than NHTSA’s own Fatality Analysis Reporting System (FARS) for medium- and heavy-duty trucks involved in fatal crashes.

Additionally, regarding the 30% overlap crash condition, NHTSA said it must consider when establishing new safety standards “whether a proposed standard is reasonable, practicable, and appropriate for the motor vehicle type for which it is prescribed.” The agency decided that a standard that required all trailers and semitrailers to meet a 30% overlap standard “would not be reasonable or practicable.”

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TSC Board Member Jennifer Tierney, who has long been an advocate for underride protection improvements on trucks, called NHTSA’s decision to deny the petition “abhorrent and indefensible. The one agency with the authority to protect the motoring public from these violent and gruesome crashes refuses to be proactive in the name of safety. At NHTSA’s current pace, I may well be dead and buried before adequate underride protections are ever required.”

Following the agency's 2022 actions on rear-impact guards, NHTSA has also been working on a rulemaking to require side underride guards on trailers. The agency last year published an ANRPM seeking feedback on the benefits, costs and other impacts of side underride guards. A February DOT Significant Rulemakings report does not list a date for the publication of an NPRM. Instead, the next date listed is October 2024 for “analyzing comments.”

[Related: NHTSA launching committee to study underride crashes as new regs near]

Bill to establish cargo theft task force introduced in House

To supplement language included in the Fiscal Year 2025 Homeland Security Appropriations Act that would allocate funding for a task force that would address supply chain fraud and cargo theft, Rep. David Valadao (R-California) has introduced a similar bill in the U.S. House.

The Safeguarding our Supply Chains Act aims to improve coordination between the Department of Homeland Security and the FBI to stop theft within the nation’s supply chains, Valadao said.

“The alarming increase in cargo theft is having a devastating impact across industries, and we need to do more to ensure these goods are making it to their destination,” he added. “The Safeguarding our Supply Chains Act will improve coordination to identify solutions and prevent theft. I’m proud to introduce this bipartisan bill and look forward to working with my colleagues to get this across the finish line.”

The bill, if passed and made law, would establish a Supply Chain Crime Coordination Center within the Department of Homeland Security’s Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) and a Supply Chain and Theft Task Force led by HSI and the FBI.

The coordination center would collect and analyze data related to supply chain fraud and theft and analyze regions and modes of transportation in the United States that are experiencing high volumes of organized crime.

The task force would address supply chain fraud and theft throughout the rail, motor carrier, and intermodal systems to detect, disrupt, and deter organized theft groups that are targeting all stages of the supply chain.

The legislation is supported by the American Trucking Associations, UPS, and numerous other supply chain groups and companies.

[Related: Homeland Security appropriations bill would create anti-fraud/cargo theft task force]

Continental Express expands to Chicago

Ohio-based truckload carrier Continental Express, Inc. recently opened a new terminal in Oswego, Illinois – its ninth location nationwide. The expansion will aid Continental in servicing its growing portfolio of Chicago-based customers, the company said.

“We have had a local presence in Chicago for over five years now, so we are super excited to finally have a terminal there to call home,” said Continental Express Vice President Kiera Sullivan.

Constructed in 2023, the terminal includes a 3,500-square-foot office and shop space and capacity to house 100 tractors and trailers. More than 25 professional drivers, operations personnel and diesel technicians are already staffed there.

Sullivan noted the number of Oswego-based drivers is expected to exceed 50 before the end of 2024.

“Growth is unlimited in the Chicago market, and as long as we continue to rely on our three golden rules of safety, service, and communication, we will continue to pursue expansion opportunities,” said Bradley Gottemoeller, Continental Express Vice President. “Our industry is in a historic freight recession. To rise above that shows when you have a great team great things can happen.”

The Chicago location comes on the heels of three other recent terminal openings in Indianapolis (2020), Columbus, Ohio (2021) and Lyndhurst, Virginia (2022). 

Specializing in refrigerated freight, Continental Express is headquartered in Sidney, Ohio. Additional terminals are in Gaffney, South Carolina; Fort Worth, Texas; Danville, Virginia; Lyndhurst, Virginia; Indianapolis; Louisville, Kentucky; and Columbus, Ohio. Continental also has a dedicated operation in Salem, Oregon.