An underride crash is an especially dangerous accident where a car slides under a large truck. There were over 6,000 fatalities in these motor vehicle accidents between 1994 and 2018. A measure was recently reintroduced in Congress requiring underride guards on the sides and fronts of all new trucks to prevent these accidents and updating standards for rear underride guards.
In an underride accident, a car’s safety devices become useless because most of the vehicle slides under the trailer. The trailer’s undercarriage then slams straight into the front windshield and into the car’s occupants.
Passengers often suffer serious head and neck injuries which have even included decapitation. Even at slow speeds, these crashes are often fatal. The 6,000 reported fatalities for these accidents are considered an undercount because of differences in police reporting.
An underride guard is a simple barrier affixed to the truck’s lower area. It would prevent cars from sliding underneath trucks in accidents, according to studies and pilot programs. Federal law now only requires underride guards on the rear of trucks.
The Stop Underrides Act, if enacted, requires the installation of underride guards on the front and sides of all new trucks. The Department of Transportation would also have to strengthen requirements for rear underride guards and add this requirement to single-unit trucks. Installation of side and front guards would be required on trailers, semi-trailers, and single trucks.
The bill also requires updated annual inspections performed by motor carriers by making underride guards a critical part of those inspections. DOT will have to review underride standards periodically to determine whether technological advancements justify additional changes to those requirements.
Trailer makers and the trucking industry claimed that there were problems with the weight and costs of these devices and that lower guards would trap trucks on railroad grade crossings when similar legislation was introduced in 2017 and 2019.
Safety advocate groups, however, support this bill. These include the Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance, Institute for Safer Trucking, Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways and the Truck Safety Coalition.