California, New York bills cover side underride guards, speed limiters

January 25, 2024

Keith Goble


One California state lawmaker wants to adopt first-in-the-nation rules for the use of speed limiters. His pursuit also would include a mandate to install side underride guards, or lateral protection devices, for trucks traveling in the state.

Sen. Scott Wiener, D-San Francisco, this week unveiled a proposal that he described as a “head-on attempt” to reduce the number of traffic deaths and injuries on California roadways.

Side underride guards

The requirement for side underride guards would apply to every truck, trailer or semitrailer with a gross vehicle weight rating exceeding 10,000 pounds. The bill states that affected trucks manufactured, sold or registered in the state must be equipped with side guards on both lateral sides of the vehicle.

The California Highway Patrol would be directed to inspect the side guards of any vehicle involved in a collision impacting them. Additionally, vehicle drivers would be required to conduct regular inspections of side guards for damage and functionality and to replace damaged units as necessary.

Speed limiters

The bill, SB961, also would require every car, truck and bus manufactured and sold in the state to be equipped with speed governors. These devices limit vehicle speed based on the speed limit for a roadway segment.

The maximum speed threshold permitted by the speed governor would be 10 mph over the posted speed.

The vehicle operator would be permitted to temporarily override the speed governor function.

Wiener cited an “alarming surge in road deaths” in the state, as well as a 2023 TRIP report that found traffic fatalities in California increased by 22% from 2019 to 2022. The figure compares to a 19% increase for the U.S. overall.

Additionally, the California Office of Traffic Safety’s 2023 Traffic Safety Report showed that one-third of all traffic fatalities in the state from 2017 to 2021 were speeding-related.

“Preventing reckless speeding is a commonsense approach to prevent these utterly needless and heartbreaking crashes,” Wiener said in prepared remarks.

Similar pursuits underway in New York

Across the country in the Empire State, bills in both statehouse chambers cover the same topics as the California bill.

A New York Senate bill would require every “truck, tractor and tractor-trailer or semitrailer combination” registered in the state with a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 26,000 pounds to be equipped with side underride guards when traveling in New York City.

S7979 would apply whenever affected vehicles are operating on highways other than controlled-access highways.

Trucks in the state fleet exceeding 10,000 pounds would be required to be equipped with side underride guards. The state commissioner, however, would be authorized to grant exemptions for trucks in the state fleet.

Another statehouse pursuit, S1952/A4057, would require any passenger vehicle manufactured in 2024 or later and registered in the state to be equipped with a speed limiter.

OOIDA calls legislative pursuits ‘flawed’

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, which represents small-business truckers, opposes the legislation in both states.

“Any legislation that would require side underride guards on semi-trailers is flawed legislation from the start,” said Doug Morris, OOIDA director of state government affairs.

He added that the Association has shown side underride guards “are impractical, provide little to no safety benefit and cause major issues at many loading docks, railroad crossings as well as other traffic impediments.” Morris said the costs outweigh the benefits.

OOIDA also has been critical of a federal side underride guard mandate. LL

More Land Line coverage of California and New York news is available.