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Side Guards Safety Work Nets National Tech Transfer Award

Monday, February 22, 2016

A Volpe team that investigated and promoted life-saving truck side guards for municipalities won a national 2016 Federal Laboratory Consortium (FLC) Excellence in Technology Transfer award.

Side guards are vehicle-based safety devices that physically cover exposed areas on the side of a truck, shielding vulnerable road users—such as bicyclists and pedestrians—from being swept underneath a truck’s rear wheels. The Cities of New York, Boston, Cambridge, and San Francisco have taken steps to make truck side guards standard equipment on city vehicles.

“We were partners in setting up the technology,” said Dr. Alex Epstein, who led the Volpe team. “Together, we enabled its introduction in the U.S. We had the technical knowledge and expertise to inform their efforts, and to connect with vendors and contractors that could build side guards. From the research phase to the implementation phase, it was a close partnership with these municipalities.”

The Volpe team included Epstein and Andrew Breck, Coralie Cooper, Eran Segev, and Sean Peirce. They will be honored with other 2016 awardees at the FLC national meeting in late April.

An infographic describing the number of pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities after side-impacts with trucks, including the following statistics: nearly half of bicyclists and more than one-quarter of pedestrians killed by a large truck first impact the side of a truck. During a recent 5-year period 556 pedestrians and bicyclist in the U.S. were killed after side-impacts with trucks.

Bringing Side Guards to American Cities

During a crash with a truck that has high ground clearance, vulnerable road users can fall into the exposed space between the front and rear wheels and suffer fatal crushing injuries. Of all vulnerable road users killed by large trucks, nearly half of bicyclists and more than one-quarter of pedestrians first impact the side of a truck.

Side guards have been required equipment since the 1980s in the European Union and Japan, and recently in Brazil. After side guards were mandated in the United Kingdom, there was a 61 percent drop in bicyclist fatalities and a 20 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities in side-collisions with trucks.

After coalescing international research on side guards and promoting side guard use at conferences and meetings with American civic leaders, the Volpe team’s work led New York City, Boston, Cambridge, and San Francisco to adopt side guards on city vehicles or to enact side guard pilot programs.

“Alex’s team did a very good job marketing this technology to different cities, especially to the four major cities that have adopted sideguards,” said Hailing Yu, Volpe’s FLC representative. “That’s a very significant point that the cities actually adopted the technology and it has had some immediate effect in preventing injuries and saving lives of pedestrians and bicyclists on busy city streets.”

About FLC

FLC is a network of more than 300 federal laboratories, agencies, and research centers that fosters strategies and opportunities for moving technologies from lab to marketplace.

The FLC Awards Program recognizes federal laboratories and industry partners for outstanding technology transfer achievements.

Having an Impact

“What this award means is that our work is having an impact that extends beyond a theoretical or academic purpose,” Epstein said. “It has a life of its own. It is meeting a real-world demand and need. It means we are doing work for the public good, which is the core of Volpe’s mission, and it’s really an honor to be recognized as serving that mission.”

Please see Volpe’s Truck Side Guard Resource Page for more on the benefits of life-saving side guard technology.

A garbage truck fitted with protective side guards that cover the exposed space between the front and rear wheels.
A City of Boston vehicle outfitted with side guards. (Volpe photo)