FMCSA proposal would require rear guards to be inspected annually

December 29, 2020

Mark Schremmer


The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration intends to require annual inspection of rear impact guards.

A notice of proposed rulemaking that would require rear guards to be examined as part of a commercial motor vehicle’s annual inspection was published in the Federal Register on Tuesday, Dec. 29. As part of the proposal, FMCSA also would alter the labeling requirements for rear impact guards and exclude road construction controlled horizontal discharge trailers from the rear impact guard requirements.

The proposal is in response to a petition from the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance as well as a recommendation from the Government Accountability Office.

“While the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations have required rear impact guards for more than 65 years, they are not included on the list of components … that must be inspected during the annual commercial motor vehicle inspection,” FMCSA wrote in the notice. “This means that a vehicle can pass an annual inspection with a missing or damaged rear impact guard.”


CVSA’s petition cited statistics from FMCSA’s Analysis and Information Online webpage that said inspectors documented more than 2,300 violations related to back guards and rear-end protection in fiscal year 2017.

“Including rear impact guards and rear-end protection in the periodic inspection requirements … will call additional attention to this critical safety component and help ensure that each vehicle is checked at least once a year, improving compliance and helping to prevent fatalities and injuries when rear-end collisions occur,” CVSA wrote.

A 2019 GAO report concluded that the lack of an annual inspection requirement for rear guards potentially “affects the safety” of the traveling public.

“FMCSA agrees that the failure of a motor carrier to properly maintain an important safety feature, such as a rear impact guard, should result in the vehicle failing the required annual inspection,” the agency wrote.

FMCSA also noted that the requirement has been included for 65 years, which leads the agency to assume that the majority of motor carriers inspect rear impact guards annually despite the absence of an “explicit requirement” to do so. Out of the 5.8 million regulatory violations identified in 2017, FMCSA said only 2,400 – or 0.041% – were rear impact guard violations.


In 2004, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration amended its labeling requirement to allow the rear impact guard certification label to be mounted on either the forward or rearward facing surface of the horizontal member of the guard as long as the label does not interfere with the retroreflective sheeting.

FMCSA wants to align its labeling requirements with the changes NHTSA made in 2004.

RCC Horizontal Discharge Trailers

In 2004, NHTSA also made an amendment to exclude RCC horizontal discharge trailers from its requirements, because a rear guard would prevent the trailers from effectively connecting with a paving machine.

FMCSA wants to add a definition of road construction controlled horizontal discharge trailer consistent with the NHTSA definition and to make it clear that such trailers are not required to have a rear guard installed.

The public will have 60 days to comment on the FMCSA notice. Comments will be able to be made by going to the website and entering Docket No. FMCSA-2019-0211.

OOIDA’s take

OOIDA said including the rear guards on the list of equipment to be inspected annually makes sense. However, OOIDA remains opposed to any proposals that would require costly front or side underride guards.

“Including rear impact guards on the list of equipment that must be examined as part of the required annual inspection will enhance underride safety performance,” said Jay Grimes, OOIDA’s director of federal affairs. “While rear impact guards have been proven to provide a practical safety benefit, that is not the case with proposed side and front underride mandates. OOIDA continues to oppose legislation that would require costly front or side underrides for commercial motor vehicles.” LL