Recently, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) announced it will petition the U.S. Department of Transportation for stronger regulations regarding the underride guards on semi-truck trailers, according to The Wall Street Journal.
The metal frames that hang below a large truck’s rear-end are referred to as underride guards, often called underriders. They are designed to protect motor vehicle occupants by prohibiting vehicles to slide beneath trucks in the event of a rear-end collision. These guards are required to be on the backs of most large trucks in the U.S. However, the IIHS reports that the guards are not strong enough to withstand force impacts that are typical of an average collision. The IIHS also believes the federal rules that dictate the use of underride guards are not strict enough.
The current underride guard standards went into effect in 1998, with the intent to prevent motor vehicles from going under trucks in the event of a rear-impact collision. However, testing showed that the guards can fail at accident speeds as low as 35 mph, putting passenger vehicle occupants at great risk. In these accidents, the vehicle’s windshield is at the main point of impact, and even vehicles with high safety ratings offer occupants little protection when underride guards fail. According to the IIHS, the upper part of the vehicle’s occupant compartment may crush due to the body of the truck intruding into the vehicle’s safety cage in these instances.
There has been debate regarding the underride standards for trucks since the early 1970s. As early as 1976, IIHS crash testing showed there were issues with the strength deficiency of the guards. However, even today, many large trucks aren’t covered by the standards for underride guards and some trucks are not required to have the guards at all.
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