Congressman Is First To Back New Truck Underride Bill

For the first time, congressional lawmakers are backing safety reform for truck underride guards. The legislation was devised by two grieving parents who are dedicated to stopping fatal underride accidents with tractor trailers.

According to Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA), a stronger law on underride guards on trucks should have been passed years ago. The bill would, if passed, require stronger rear guards on trailers, and also would require side guards on trailers, too.

The goal of the bill is to prevent fatal underride accidents. This is where a passenger vehicle slides under the trailer, crushing and/or decapitating the passengers.

In August 2017, crash tests at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety in Virginia showed that the new guards being proposed in the bill could save lives. The number of lives that could be saved is not clear because not all of these accidents are reported to federal authorities.

DeSaulnier stated that he believes at least 300 people per year are dying in these types of truck accidents, so there is an urgency to solving the problem.

The NHTSA has spent several years considering stronger rear guard standards, but safety advocates warn that those standards still will not be enough. The NHTSA also has not supported adding side guards because the cost-benefit analysis showed that the cost would be near $10 million. That is the amount that the NHTSA has said is the reasonable amount to spend per life saved.

Safety experts have noted that there is not enough data to show that the safety gains from the new guards would be erased by trucking companies putting more trailers on the road. They would likely do this because of the added costs of the new guards on each trailer.

The fate of the bill is uncertain, but more trucking companies seem to be getting on board for increasing the strength of rear underguards. But it is unclear if companies will start to put side guards on their trucks anytime soon.

Our View

The IIHS states that while underride guards as they exist today do help to prevent fatal crashes, crashes that involve only part of the truck’s rear are much more deadly. It is our hope as personal injury attorneys who have worked on many truck crashes that these companies will start to have stronger underride guards on their trucks. We also hope that side guards are added in coming years as well. These changes could prevent many deadly truck crashes, as well as many personal injury and wrongful death lawsuits.