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Federal Safety Standards for Truck Underride Guards May Not Be Good Enough

Due to their sheer size and weight, commercial semi-trucks pose a serious threat to drivers and passengers in cars, SUVs, and pick-up trucks. A 3,000-White Semi-Truck With Underride Guardspound car does not stand a chance against a 40-ton truck when there is a collision, even at low speeds. One of the biggest concerns in a collision with a tractor-trailer is the potential for a car to slide under the trailer. Because the trailer stands significantly higher than the bumper of a car, this is the likely result of a collision with the rear or side of a semi-truck. For this reason, semi-trucks have been required to have a guard installed to prevent this type of accident since 1998. Unfortunately, the standards for this guard have proven to be insufficient.

What Is Required Today

A rear underride guard is attached to the back of the truck’s trailer and is intended to stop a car from slipping underneath when a collision occurs. All trucks with a gross weight of 10,000 pounds or more are required by federal law to be equipped with an underride guard that meets specific standards for width, height, and positioning and that is strong enough to stop a car that collides with it at a speed of 30 miles per hour or less. Currently, there is no requirement for trucks to have side underride guards. Despite these requirements, serious injuries and deaths still occur due to truck underride crashes.

What Happens When Guards Are Insufficient?

When a car hits a semi-truck trailer from the side where there is no guard or hits the rear underride guard with more force than the guard can withstand, the car can be forced under the trailer. This scenario causes the impact to occur not at the car’s bumper, which is designed to absorb impact, but at the windshield and passenger compartment. These crashes can be gruesome as they often result in devastating injuries—including decapitation—as the passenger compartment is crushed or sheared off under the trailer. In one such accident in Texas, two young girls were killed when the car they were riding in was pushed under a truck trailer by another semi. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has estimated that about 423 people in passenger vehicles die each year when their vehicles strike the backs of large trucks. More than 5,000 passenger vehicle occupants are injured. Clearly, if these types of accidents are still happening, the federal safety standards do not go far enough to protect drivers and passengers.

Are Canadian Standards Better?

NHTSA agrees that current U.S. standards are not high enough. They have proposed adopting the requirements of the Canada Motor Vehicle Safety Standard for rear underride guard. Canada’s standards require a rear underride guard that can withstand speeds of up to 35 miles per hour, a slight improvement over the current American standard. However, experts believe these changes won’t go far enough to protect drivers.

What Do We Need to Do?

Crash tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) have found high failure rates among rear underride guards on semi-trucks under both American and Canadian standards. When a car strikes the underride guard straight on at a low speed, the guards are usually successful. However, when a car hits the guard with a 50 percent overlap—meaning half of the front end of the car does not impact the guard—many American guards failed. When only 30 percent of the car’s front bumper hit the guard, both American and Canadian guards failed. Because of these crash tests, the IIHS believes that adopting Canadian standards does not go far enough to protect drivers and passengers. They believe that NHTSA needs to require bigger, stronger underride guards on more trucks to save lives.

What If You Are Injured in an Underride Crash in Texas?

If you are injured or a loved one is killed in an underride crash with a commercial truck, you need an experienced Texas truck crash attorney who understands the inherent weakness in many truck underride guards. Call the attorneys at Wayne Wright Injury Lawyers for a free consultation. We will look at the details of your case and let you know how we can help.