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Do Trucks Need Safer Guards to Prevent Underride Accidents?

Underride accidents are among the most horrific types of motor vehicle crashes. They occur when a car, motorcycle or other vehicle slides underneath the trailer of a semi-truck. The vehicle is crushed underneath the trailer and the top of the vehicle may be sheared off. These types of accidents result in devastating head injuries, catastrophic damage and wrongful deaths.

Current federal laws require most semi-trucks to have underride guards on the back of the trailer to prevent vehicles from going underneath a truck during a rear-end collision. Legislation introduced in Congress would require tractor trailers to be equipped with side underride guards on trailers as well. Transportation safety advocates say side underride guards will saves lives.

What is an underride accident?

Passenger car occupants are vulnerable in crashes with large trucks. Semi-trucks are taller and sit higher off the road than automobiles, creating the risk of underride or override collisions. The difference in the height and weight of large trucks and cars creates a dangerous structural incompatibility during a crash.

The front end of an automobile is designed to absorb much of the impact of a collision and protect the vehicle occupants. Those auto safety features may be bypassed if the smaller vehicle slides underneath the truck trailer. The passenger compartment of the automobile may be destroyed in an underride collision with the occupants absorbing the brunt of the impact.

Underride Protection Devices

Underride guards are metal bars that hang from the back of a high-riding semi to create a barrier and stop a smaller vehicle from sliding underneath the truck in a rear-end crash.

If the truck trailer does not have a strong underride guard, a car or pickup that rear-ends a semi may get crushed underneath the truck, shearing off the passenger vehicle roof and resulting in a crash that will likely be fatal to the people in the car.

New federal regulations would require additional underride protection by installing side underride guards on trucks

Current federal law does not require trucks to install side underride guards, which are like rear underride guards.

Government statistics show that more than 200 people are killed each year in side impact underride accidents with truck trailers, according to an NBC news report.

Legislation was introduced in Congress in December 2017 that would require the sides of truck trailers to have underride guards and the front of trucks to be equipped with underride guards.

The legislation would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue a rule requiring side underride guards on trailers, semi-trailers, and single-unit trucks heavier than 10,000 pounds built on or after the rule’s effective date.

The measure also would require front underride guards on commercial vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds manufactured on or after the rule’s effective date.

The truck industry has generally opposed mandatory side impact guards on trucks, saying they would increase the cost of a truck, would increase the weight of trucks and have not proven effective in crash tests.

Inadequate Underride Guards

A primary problem with the underride guards is that many are simply too weak to withstand the impact of a collision.

Many underride guards that are attached to 18-wheelers and commercial trucks are unstable. They can crumble on impact, or disintegrate in even a slight impact accident, thus providing no protection to the occupants of the other vehicle.

In the last three years alone, Indiana State Police have issued citations more than 60 times to truckers with guards that are corroded, broken, insufficiently held in place or missing altogether.

However, despite their danger, these trucks are not taken off the road. Instead, drivers are simply required to pay a $150 fine.

Even with cars traveling at only 25 mph at the time of collision, the guards collapse and bend into the back of the truck, which negates their purpose.

Lawmakers could improve upon the regulations by requiring sturdier guards. For example, underride protection devices used in Canada are 1.75 times stronger.

OTHER TYPES OF TRUCK ACCIDENTS

Head On

These accidents occur when a truck driver or another motorist crosses the center line into an oncoming lane of traffic. The impact of head-on collisions may cause incapacitating or fatal injuries.

Sideswipes

Tractor-trailers tend to have large blind spots on either side and behind the truck. Drivers may not be able to see drivers riding along in the other lane. When changing lanes, they can swipe another vehicle and cause an accident.

Jackknife

A jackknife accident occurs when the truck driver slams on the brakes, causing the trailer to swing out at an angle to the cab, like a pocketknife folding together. An 18-wheeler traveling at high speed may cause a catastrophic accident with serious injuries.

Off the Road

Trucks can run out of the lane or off the road because the truck driver attempted to avoid a collision or due to a distraction. Accidents involving running off the road may be single-vehicle or multiple-vehicle accidents.

Rollover

A tractor-trailer, semi or other large vehicle has a higher center of gravity than a car, and this increases a truck’s tendency to rollover due to a cargo shift or being improperly loaded. A driver may swerve to avoid something, over-correct the steering, and lose control.

Rear-End Collision

Rear-end collisions are among the most common type of collisions involving large trucks, accounting for nearly a quarter of accidents. Because of their weight, trucks take a longer distance than smaller vehicles to stop.

If you have been injured in a truck underride accident, we can help

If you are a victim of a truck underride collision, you need the experience and resources of an Indiana underride truck accident lawyer. The legal team at Craig, Kelley & Faultless LLC represents truck accident victims and their families. We care about our clients and we will advocate aggressively for you to receive full compensation for your injuries. Our attorneys will deal with the insurance companies and paperwork while you focus on your recovery. Contact us at (888) 937-3862 or online for a free consultation.