Testing that was recently conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety or IIHS found that underride guards mounted on the sides of tractor trailers offer similar safety advantages as rear-mounted trailer guards.
In early 2017, IIHS did two 35 MPH crash tests. One was with a side underride protection device, and the other was with a fiberglass side skirt designed only to improve aerodynamics. In both tests, a typical, midsize car hit the center of a 53-foot, dry van trailer.
With the protection device installed, the underride guard bent, but it prevented the car from sliding under the trailer. In the second test with only the fiberglass guard in place, the impact tore off part of the car’s roof. The sedan also wedged under the trailer. IIHS stated that occupants in the second test vehicle would have suffered possibly fatal truck accident injuries.
The research and tests by IIHS showed that side underride guards can save lives, stated David Zuby, the Institute’s executive vice president and chief research office. IIHS thinks that a mandate for side underride guards would improve highway safety. This is a pertinent safety finding, given the fact that side impact truck crashes are occurring more frequently in the United States.
IIHS data finds that 301 of the 1542 passenger vehicle occupants who died in 2015 in tractor trailer wrecks died when the vehicle hit the side of the trailer. IIHS also found that 292 people died when their car hit the back of a tractor trailer. Federal law currently mandates rear underride guards but lacks a requirement for side guards.
A study by IIHS in 2012 found that rigid side guards on trailers could cut the risk of serious accident injury by 75% in all commercial truck side crashes.
The American Trucking Association, on the other hand, argues that side underride guards might lead to safety improvements, but noted that overall crash protection has complicating factors. These include various engineering tradeoffs regarding weight, strength, and effectiveness. Side guards would add weight, which could lead to frame rail cracks and trailer failures; this is also a safety hazard.
Our tractor trailer accident attorneys in North Carolina and Virginia support additional federal safety requirements that make tractor trailers safer. We would expect for the trucking industry to argue against anything that may reduce their profits, but we think that the addition of side underride guards, also called truck guard rails, on tractor trailers is a reasonable safety improvement. IIHS data suggests that many lives may saved each year with these safety improvements.
Our personal injury attorneys support better highway safety for trucks. It will lead to fewer horrible truck accidents that leave innocent people crippled with serious personal injuries, and also lead to fewer traffic deaths and multi-million dollar wrongful death settlements.