U.S. Department of Transportation, City of Boston Partnership Reduces Pedestrian Fatalities

RELEASED: 
November 8, 2018

The Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC) is pleased to present a new video featuring technology designed to reduce bicyclist and pedestrian fatalities. A partnership between the U.S. Department of Transportation’s (DOT) Volpe National Transportation Systems Center and the City of Boston takes aim at the deadliest types of traffic crashes: large trucks colliding with pedestrians or bicyclists. In an effort to eradicate fatal and serious road crashes in Boston by 2030, Mayor Martin Walsh announced the adoption of Vision Zero, a multi-national safety project that focuses resources on proven strategies.

The video highlights how Volpe and the City of Boston initiated the technology transfer (T2) partnership after Boston officials volunteered as a test bed city and implemented truck side guards to 18 city-owned trucks in an effort to reduce fatalities. These physical safety devices act as a barrier to protect pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from falling into the open space between the front and rear wheels of large trucks in the event of a side-impact collision. Side guards have the capability to be retrofitted onto existing vehicles or incorporated into new fleets.

Dr. Alexander Epstein, a Senior General Engineer at Volpe, explains in the video how the partnership between Volpe and the City of Boston occurred.

“As a federal lab, we don’t have a truck fleet. We don’t have the means to deploy this [research]. On the other hand, a city—with its own truck fleet, with many contractors, many avenues to implement an onboard technology like a side guard—is in position to deploy, but not necessarily in a position to develop, the practices and the specifications and know how to do that,” said Epstein. “I think it was a very complementary set of skills that came together in a partnership.”

The life-saving technology is twofold. In addition to the prospect of reducing and eliminating fatalities, a study conducted by DOT showed a reduction of fuel consumption with the use of aerodynamic truck side guards by reducing air drag at highway speeds.

As a result of the successful side guard pilot, Volpe advised and Boston issued the first mandatory side-guard ordinance for public and private truck fleets. The mandate reached 230 trucks after it took effect in May 2015.

“The collaboration between Volpe and the City of Boston to apply this technology with the intention of reducing traffic fatalities is truly extraordinary. The partnership demonstrates how federal laboratory research implemented at the state and local government level can create a significant impact across the nation,” said Kathleen Graham, FLC State & Local Government Committee Chair.

The Volpe truck side guard technology partnership was honored for its innovative success by receiving the FLC Excellence in Technology Transfer Award in 2015 and 2016.

Volpe continues to conduct research and collaborate with multiple cities in the United States to advance the use of side guards throughout the country.

The DOT Truck Guard video can be viewed on the FLC YouTube channel: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oFlsjK-R8hU.

For additional information about the dedicated R&D work of federal laboratories and their partners, visit the Success Stories Gallery.

About the Federal Laboratory Consortium for Technology Transfer (FLC)

Organized in 1974 and formally chartered by the Federal Technology Transfer Act of 1986, the FLC is a nationwide network of approximately 300 federal laboratories, centers, parent departments, and agencies that establishes strategies and opportunities for linking laboratory mission technologies and expertise with the marketplace. To accomplish its mission of assisting the movement of innovative federal research and development into the U.S. economy, the FLC provides various resources from training to regional and national meetings so its members can obtain the resources they need to achieve successful technology transfer. To learn more about the FLC and its mission, visit http://www.federallabs.org.