Trucking and Insurance Industry Press for Improved Underride Guards for Tractor-Trailer Trucks and Straight Trucks

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded at an all-day conference that deadly truck underride crashes could be prevented when passenger vehicles crash into a tractor-trailer truck or straight struck from behind.

In underride crashes, a passenger car crashes into the rear of a tractor-trailer truck and the car ends up jammed under the truck, flattening the passenger compartment and injuring or killing the car’s driver and passengers. Underride crashes are extremely dangerous and many times lead to serious injuries and/or death. Underride incidents also can occur when bicyclists, pedestrians and motorcyclists slide under the truck body.

There are federal rules and regulations that require trailers and some straight trucks to be equipped with rear underride guards, which are steel bars designed to prevent vehicles from sliding under the backs of trucks or trailers. The same rules and regulations imposed by the federal government have been in place since 1953. Now there is movement to amend rules of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), which is considering a new standard for the guards to make them stronger.

The insurance industry crash-tested the latest design Stoughton trailer, crashing a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu into the back of the trailer hooked to a semi-tractor and weighed down by 34,100 pounds.  The collision occurred at 35 mph. That is the speed that federal regulations require that a vehicle be strong enough so that its occupants survive such a crash.

The test was successful in that the newly designed rear underride guard did not come into contact with the passenger compartment of the car. Therefore, the crash would allow the driver and passenger of such a crash to survive in most cases.

The recommended safety change would require bars that would have four supports across the horizontal bar of the under guard instead of the current two. The new bars are on the outer ends of the bars and all are fastened to a more robust and stronger undercarriage.

As of this writing, Manac, Vanguard, Wabash and Stoughton trailers passed the Insurance Institute’s crash test. There are several other trailer manufacturers that include Great Dane, Hyundai, Strick and Utility, which do not comply. One of the manufacturer’s representative said the fix to comply with new federal regulations may cost only $20. NHTSA believes the needed addition to comply would be much more costly. The insurance industry disputes the cost discrepancy and disagrees with the NHTSA with respect to that.

At this annual insurance industry meeting, there was also a discussion that semi-trailer side skirts, currently used for fuel-saving, could be made more rugged and sturdy to serve as underride prevention devices in the event of a side crash. Some municipalities around the country are placing side guards on its trucks to protect pedestrians, bicyclists and motorcycle riders. These measures are clearly designed to decrease the number of serious injuries or deaths in underride crashes.

Kreisman Law Offices has been handling truck accident cases, truck underride crash cases, catastrophic injury cases, motorcycle crash cases, bicycle injury cases and pedestrian injury cases for individuals and families who have been harmed, injured or died as a result of the carelessness or negligence of another for more than 40 years in and around Chicago, Cook County and its surrounding areas, including New Lenox, Antioch, Bannockburn, Barrington, South Barrington, South Chicago Heights, Chicago Heights, River Grove, Streamwood, Bensenville, Vernon Hills, Wheeling, Buffalo Grove, Glenview, Glencoe, Highland Park, Highwood, Chicago (Jackson Park, Washington Park, Hyde Park, Chinatown, Koreatown, Back of the Yards, Austin, Ashburn, Little Italy, West Loop, South Loop, Lincoln Park, Lincoln Square, Sauganash), Schaumburg, Schiller Park, Tinley Park and University Park, Ill.

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