The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, or NHTSA, will soon propose a new rule that will mandate that tractor trailers must have stronger underride guards on the rears of all trucks.
The guards, which are on the back of all big rig trailers, are intended to prevent cars from sliding under the truck when there is a rear end crash. However, the current standards are too weak, critics say, which leads to the underride guards collapsing when cars hit them.
For example, a police officer in 2001 rear ended a trailer in Florida, killing him. The top half of the car was torn off. The officer was only going 33 MPH.
The NHTSA estimates that 400 people die annually when they rear end tractor trailers. The new standards would match what exists in Canada. It would require all underride guards to handle an impact of 35 MPH, rather than the current 30 MPH standard.
The NHTSA stated this month that more robust trailer rear impact guards can cut down on deaths and injuries in the event of rear end crashes.
However, critics of the proposal do not see the action as the ideal answer. A woman who lost two daughters in a rear end crash in North Carolina two years ago said last week that the new 35 MPH standard will not be enough to stop serious injuries and deaths. She noted that offset crashes still could lead to fatalities.
Our truck accident law firm in North Carolina and Virginia normally handles cases involving negligent truck drivers that injure or kill innocent drivers. In the case of these types of rear end collisions with trucks, it is the responsibility of the car driver to ensure that he or she maintains a safe distance with the rear of the trailer.
That said, it does not surprise us that the current standard is only 30 MPH in the US. The trucking industry has very well paid lobbyists that go to Capitol Hill to ensure that safety regulations are as weak and affordable for the bottom line as possible. We have worked on cases where the trucking company would not even pay to ensure that its rigs had tires with enough tread or fully functioning brakes. Some trucking companies will always cut corners to make more money. If that ever happens to you and you suffer an injury in Virginia or North Carolina, you should consult with experienced truck accident attorneys.