The surge in online shopping has brought tremendous growth to the commercial trucking industry, with more trucks on the road every year. Unfortunately, more trucks means more traffic, and with more traffic comes an increased risk of accidents for everyone on the road. Large trucks do have some safety features designed to save lives in the event of an accident, but there is one piece of safety equipment that has yet to be welcomed: the side underride guard.
Truck Versus Car Accidents
When a semi-truck and a passenger vehicle collide, the results can be disastrous, no matter what the angle is. With a commercial truck weighing in at as much as 40 tons when fully loaded, and the average passenger vehicle weighing in at about two tons, the imbalance of forces magnifies the risk for severe injury or death. Whether the occupants of a passenger vehicle can survive the crash at all will depend strongly on both the specifics of the accident and the safety features of both the car and the truck.
Big-rig trucks have some safety features designed to reduce the risk of catastrophic injury in an accident, but not as many as a passenger vehicle. Rear underride guards are one of the newer features that have been introduced. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required use of rear underrride guards since the late 1990s. These barriers hang underneath the rear of the trailer and are designed to stop cars from sliding underneath the trailer in a rear-end accident. Prior to the requirement that trailers have rear underride guards, this type of accident was often a death sentence for those in a passenger vehicle.
With the floor of the trailer at approximately mid-cabin height to a regular car, as the car struck the trailer it would continue to travel forward and the entire top of the cabin would be sheared off, leading to devastating and often fatal head trauma. A rear underride guard helps prevent this type of accident by stopping the forward motion of the car, greatly increasing the chances of survival.
Side Underride Guards Can Save Lives
Rear underride guards seem like an obvious solution to a real problem with car-vs.-truck accidents, but there’s another problem that’s being discussed right now in the trucking and highway safety industries: side underride accidents. Unlike the rear of a trailer, the side of a trailer is not protected from a crash. If a car and a trailer collide from the side, the car can be forced underneath the trailer, resulting in the same kinds of shearing damage and catastrophic head injuries as a rear underride crash. The car may also become lodged under the trailer and dragged for a considerable distance before the truck is able to come to a stop, or may be pinned and then crushed by the rear wheels of the trailer.
Data from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that 301 out of 1,542 deaths resulted from side impacts with the trailer of a truck in 2015. The organization estimates that underride is an issue in as many as one half of fatal accidents involving cars and semi-trucks.
The IIHS has also completed studies showing that side underride guards can save lives, but trucking companies are often opposed to them due to the extra weight that the guards add to the trailer, reducing valuable cargo space, as well as the extra expense of refitting.
Will the government mandate that side underride guards be fit on trailers, the way it did with rear guards? The National Transportation Safety Board recommended requiring side guards in 2013, but that proposal has yet to be put in force by any regulatory agency.
Legal Help After a Commercial Truck Accident
If you’ve been involved in a car accident with a commercial truck, Wayne Wright LLP would like to help you seek the compensation that you may be owed in a court of law. To arrange a free consultation about your legal situation with one of our experienced personal injury attorneys, call us by phone, send an email with our contact form, or click the live chat box on our website today.