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Why Pickup Truck And SUV Bumpers Will Never Get Better

American Government Special Collections Reference Desk

Why Pickup Truck And SUV Bumpers Will Never Get Better

Jeff Mohr
February 22, 2008

Bumpers have been a long standing battle between automakers and auto insurers with consumers stuck in the middle. Automakers want to make lighter, lower-cost (and higher-profit) vehicles with sleek cab-forward designs and short overhangs. Insurers want big, strong bumpers that stick out ahead of the rest of the body to provide maximum protection - and maximum profits for the insurance industry.

The smooth, flowing lines of most new cars and trucks conceal bumpers so well consumers rarely give them a second thought. But back into a pole in a K-Mart parking lot on a busy weekend and bumper design suddenly becomes an important part of your life.

If you ram the pole in a Ford F150 going 5 mph (8 km/h), you're looking at $2,042 in damage and all the hassle that entails: dropping the truck off at the body shop, fighting with the insurance company, mooching rides to work for a week while they fix your truck. But it’s not just Ford! Out Of All The Pickup Trucks Made Today, Not One Has An Energy Absorbing Rear Bumper That Will Withstand A 5 MPH Impact!

When it comes to bumpers, Andy Rooney probably said it best: “Bumpers don’t protect anything except the income of automobile parts departments.”

But, what is the purpose of bumpers?

According to the Federal Bumper Standard, the car bumper is designed to prevent or reduce physical damage to the front and rear ends of passenger motor vehicles in low-speed collisions. Automobile bumpers are not typically designed to be structural components that would significantly contribute to vehicle crashworthiness or occupant protection during front or rear collisions. It is not a safety feature intended to prevent or mitigate injury severity to occupants in the passenger cars. Bumpers are designed to protect the hood, trunk, grille, fuel, exhaust and cooling system as well as safety related equipment such as parking lights, headlamps & taillights in low speed collisions.

So why won’t pickup truck and SUV bumpers ever get better? Because, THEY DON’T NEED TO! These vehicles fall under the category of trucks and consequently have NO Federal Bumper Standards. Only passenger cars are required to have 2.5 mph bumpers.

“Pickups may look tough, but they're clearly not tough at all when it comes to preventing damage in low speed crashes” says Adrian Lund of the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. Today, the average 5 mph rear-into-pole accident for full size pickup trucks costs $1,618 to repair! (That’s in 2004 prices – the last time the IIHS tested pickup truck bumpers)

How about SUVs? "SUVs may be advertised as rugged and manufacturers tell potential buyers they can drive these vehicles anywhere adventure leads’ them… But consumers can expect big repair bills if they're unlucky enough to bump these so-called rugged vehicles into something at slow speeds” says IIHS President - Brian O'Neill

So how can bumpers be made better? "If you don't have enough overhang, no matter what you have, you're going to have problems," says Mike Ciccone, special projects coordinator at the Insurance Institute For Highway Safety. "You need overhang, energy-absorbing material and a strong enough bumper beam. Those are three main elements."

How do I know if my vehicle meets or exceeds the Federal bumper standard?

Manufacturers self-certify their products in order to meet the bumper standard, as well as all applicable Federal motor vehicle safety standards. Since this is a minimum performance standard, the manufacturer may or may not be providing a greater level of protection. The agency does not require manufacturers to report the actual performance capabilities of their bumper systems.

Although many manufacturers voluntarily include bumper performance information on the window stickers of new passenger cars sold in United States, only California and Hawaii have bumper performance disclosure laws that require manufacturers to be specific about its performance capabilities. Jeff is CEO of Mohr Mfg - http://www.superbumper.com The company makes portable, energy absorbing, spare safety bumpers that prevent rear end collision damage caused by Tailgaters, Uninsured Motorists, Bumper To Bumper Traffic, Distracted Drivers, Inattentive Cell Phone Users, Drivers With Poor Judgment, Text Messengers And Lousy-Stinking Parallel Parkers. For crash videos you can also check http://www.youtube.com/user/saintbumper

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