Large Truck Underride Guards and the Need for Revised Regulations

Underride collisions are a very dangerous type of large truck accident. An underride collision occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with a tractor-trailer and fully or partially passes under it, which can result in the passenger vehicle being crushed, or in some instances, the roof of the vehicle being sheared off. Because underride collisions often cause severe damage to the passenger vehicle involved, the risk of serious injury or death is very high with this type of auto accident. Each year in the United States, approximately 423 people die and 5,000 people sustain injuries in underride collisions.

Safety equipment does exist, however, that can prevent underride from occurring. This equipment, known as an underride guard, blocks a passenger vehicle from passing under a large truck. Unfortunately, underride guard regulations in the U.S. need to be improved, leaving passenger vehicle occupants unnecessarily vulnerable to this dangerous type of crash. Victims of underride collisions can turn to an experienced Orlando injury attorney to learn about their legal rights.

What Is an Underride Guard?

Underride guards are long pieces of steel at the rear, front or side of a large truck. These steel guards, when functioning correctly, block a passenger vehicle from passing under the tractor-trailer during a collision. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) discovered during crash tests that many rear underride guards fail at speeds as low as 35 miles per hour. Currently, rear underride guards are the only type of guard subject to regulation in the U.S.; there are no regulations in the U.S. requiring trucks to be fitted with side or front underride guards, nor regulating the standards for these guards. To minimize the number of deaths and serious injuries associated with underride collisions, the United States may wish to follow the lead of the European Union, which began requiring side guards in 1989 and front guards in 2003.

Why Are Underride Guards Important?

According to IIHS President Adrian Lund, with recent advances in safety technology for passenger vehicles, coupled with the lack of progress in improving underride guards, passenger vehicle occupants are actually safer hitting a brick wall than colliding with a tractor-trailer. Safety mechanisms in passenger vehicles prove ineffective during an underride collision. Underride guards, therefore, remain the sole safety mechanism that can protect passenger vehicle occupants from serious injury or death when their vehicle collides with a large truck.

IIHS Calls for Better Underride Guard Regulations

The IIHS petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) in February 2011 for improved rear underride guard regulations, basing their recommendations on 30 years of underride collision research. The IIHS has recommended that the NHTSA:

  • Require underride guards to be stronger, so they will remain in place during a crash
  • Minimize underride guard exemptions, so more large trucks will be equipped with this safety equipment
  • Revise certification standards to require that underride guard systems-trailer, guard, bolts and welding-be tested as a whole, rather than allowing components to be tested separately

According to Lund, “Underride standards haven’t kept pace with improvements in passenger vehicle crashworthiness. Absent regulation, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to improve underride countermeasures, so we hope NHTSA will move quickly on our petition.”

While the push for improved rear underride guard regulations continues, victims of underride collisions can contact a qualified Orlando injury lawyer to fight for the recovery to which they may be entitled under the law.