Deadly tractor-trailer underride crashes are preventable

Underride crashes are not the most common type of trucking accident, but they are among the most deadly.

Strong underride guards at the back and along the sides of the trailers may help prevent hundreds of fatalities each year, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Why are underride crashes so dangerous?

As demonstrated in crash tests performed by the IIHS, the front of a midsize sedan can slide under the trailer of most semitrucks so that the first point of impact is the windshield. This typically sheers off the top portion of the car and kills the vehicle occupants in the front seat. Those in the back are also likely to suffer fatal injuries.

What do underride guards do?

If the front bumper of the car does not collide with anything during a crash, it will not trigger the front air bags and other safety features. In the back of the trailer, a bar hangs down below the bottom of the trailer both to prevent the passenger vehicle from sliding underneath and to activate these safety features. Side guards are panels that extend below the trailer between the wheels and perform that same function.

Why are underride accidents still happening?

The standards for rear underride guards are more than 20 years old and need updating. While most truck manufacturers have installed rear guards that exceed the standards and meet the new suggested requirements of safety experts, many companies do not even meet the old minimum standards. Damaged, cracked or missing rear guards put lives at risk every day.

Pushback from trucking companies and lobbyists has prevented the success of attempted side guard legislation. Installation and maintenance of the guards would increase trailers’ cost and weight and lessen the amount of cargo each could carry. As a result of the opposition, the Stop Underrides Act has failed to pass twice so far. However, lawmakers and others continue to fight for better standards and increased commercial vehicle safety.