Underride Crashes: Underride Guards on Commercial Trucks Save Lives

by | Apr 4, 2019 | Trucking Accidents |

Trucking safety advocates agree with the families of the victims of underride crashes – underride guards on commercial trucks would save lives.

One woman in Colorado joined the Truck Safety Coalition and began advocating for a federal law requiring underride guards after her father and two passengers in his car were killed in an underride crash with a blacked-out, jackknifed truck in the road:

Rod Cota was traveling in a vehicle with coworkers in New York. They were unaware a semi was jackknifed and blacked out ahead on the interstate. All three in the vehicle were killed.

“Their vehicle passed completely under the bottom side of the tractor-trailer. The three of them were killed instantly,” Strader told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas.

What is an underride crash? How can these crashes be prevented?

Congress is considering a new law, the “Stop Underrides Act,” that would impose new regulations on truck drivers and their employers – what is included in the proposed legislation?

What is an Underride Crash and How Could They be Prevented?

The sides, front, and rear of most commercial trucks are much higher than that of most cars. Which means, when a smaller vehicle collides with a tractor-trailer, the smaller vehicle might pass underneath the tractor-trailer instead of simply colliding with it – in some cases, decapitating the driver and passengers in the car:

Hundreds of people have been killed or have suffered severe injuries in underride crashes that could have been avoided if underride guards were on the trucks – these guards can be installed on the sides, rear, or front of the truck.

If a car slams into the side of a truck, obviously there will still be a collision and, in many cases, there will be injuries – but the car’s driver and passengers won’t be instantly killed by decapitation.

Even if the underride guards are solid, unyielding barriers, the car will be prevented from passing underneath the truck, the smaller vehicle’s occupants will be protected to some extent by seatbelts and airbags, and they are much less likely to be killed instantly on impact.

Another version of underride guards would work like a rubber band, absorbing the impact while reducing the potential damage done to the car and truck as well as reducing the injuries suffered by the occupants.

Why Wouldn’t Truck Companies Want to Install Underride Guards?

Why wouldn’t a corporation want to install any safety feature?

If it will cost them money, they will fight it. Only when the cost of killing people becomes greater than the cost of installing the safety feature – or when the federal government passes regulations forcing them – will they make the change.

One objection to the installation of underride guards is that the additional weight of the guards would reduce the maximum weight of the load that they can carry with each trip (i.e. it would cost them money).

Possibly, the legislature could vote to increase the maximum weight load to offset the weight of the underride guards – I don’t know if this is an acceptable answer or not. That would depend on what the safety experts say about the maximum weight loads and if they can safely be increased.

Regardless – does anyone who is not the owner of a trucking company think that the profits lost by a slightly-reduced weight load are a fair price for continuing to unnecessarily kill drivers by decapitation?

What Would the “Stop Underrides Act” Require?

Congress is considering a bill, the “Stop Underrides Act,” that would require trucks to install underride guards – what would the law require if it passes?

What Type of Trucks Would be Required to Install Underride Guards?

The law would require underride guards to be installed “on all trailers, semi-trailers, and single unit trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds that are manufactured on or after the effective date of the rule.”

When Would Trucks be Required to Install Underride Guards?

All trucks manufactured after the effective date of the new rule (the new rule could be implemented no later than one year after the law is passed) would be required to install the guards.

All trucks manufactured before the effective date of the new rule would have two years to be retrofitted with underride guards (three years for front-end underride guards).

What Type of Underride Guards Would be Required?

The proposed law requires installation or retrofitting of underride guards in all three locations – on the rear, sides, and front of the truck.

It does not specify the type of underride guard (solid or impact-absorbing), but the proposed law does contain mandatory performance standards that must be verified through crash testing.

Would There be Maintenance and Inspection Requirements?

The proposed law requires that “the underride guard required under this section be maintained in safe and proper operating condition to maximize its effectiveness in saving lives,” and it provides for periodic inspections including:

  • Ensuring that “the guards are in safe and proper operating condition;”
  • “Identification of any rust, corrosion, cracked welds, cracked or fractured vertical members, cuts, or tears in any underride guard to ensure the integrity of the guard;”
  • “The inspection of underride guards immediately following a crash that impacts an underride guard;” and
  • Pre-trip inspections “of the comprehensive underride protection system of their trailer, semi-trailer, or single unit truck to identify any rust, corrosion, cracked welds, cracked or fractured vertical members, cuts and tears in any underride guard, and to ensure the dimensional integrity of such guards.”

SC Truck Accident Attorneys in Myrtle Beach and Conway

If you’ve ever seen the aftermath of an underride crash, slowly passing an eighteen-wheeler in the road with a roof-less car lodged beneath it as you realize there was a person in that car… you will understand why this proposed law makes sense.

If you have been involved in an accident with a negligent eighteen-wheeler or commercial vehicle driver, the Myrtle Beach trucking accident lawyers at Coastal Law will fight to help you recover maximum compensation.

Call Coastal Law now at (843) 488-5000 or email us through our website to set up a free consultation and case review with a SC trucking accident attorney today.

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