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Is Progress Finally Being Made in Improving Underride Guard Safety? -- II

Last week, we discussed how it’s important for those motorists planning to hit the road for the upcoming Thanksgiving weekend to exercise caution, as there will likely be a large amount of traffic consisting of both fellow holiday travelers and truck drivers trying to make their scheduled deliveries.

Indeed, we discussed one type of truck accident that drivers need to take extra care to protect themselves against: rear-end crashes. That’s because of the danger posed by the underride guard — the metal barrier that extends beneath the trailer to prevent vehicles from sliding underneath during a high-speed crash — failing.

In today’s post, we’ll continue this discussion, examining why underride guards fail, what trailer manufacturers have done to address the issue, and what steps the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is taking to make America’s roads and highways safer.

Why do underride guards fail?

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has run a series of rear-end truck accidents over the years, has found that the underride guards typically haven’t been strong enough, meaning such factors as poor design or inadequate materials are likely at play.

Indeed, the safety group has long found that many underride guards could not withstand head-on crashes, 50 percent overlap crashes (50 percent of the car strikes the side of the underride guard) and 30 percent overlap crashes (30 percent of the car strikes the side of the underride guard), sending the car — and occupants — under the trailer.

What have trailer manufacturers done to address the issue of failing underride guards?

The good news is that the IIHS now reports that of the eight major trailer manufacturers, all of them have implemented design changes and/or reinforced elements such that all of their trailers now pass both the 50 percent overlap crash and the head-on crash test.

However, the safety agency indicated that more work needs to be done concerning the 30 percent overlap crash, as only one manufacturer passed this test.

What is the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doing to make America’s roads and highways safer from underride guard accidents?

While the issue of truck crashes and failing underride guards has long been on the radar of the NHTSA, measurable progress was lacking. However, the agency recently initiated a rulemaking process in response to entreaties by several parties, including the Truck Safety Coalition.

The rulemaking process concerns the evaluation of all options to enhance the safety of trailers in rear-end collisions.

Here’s hoping we start to see meaningful change sooner than later in the trucking industry …

Source: RTV 6, “Report shows improvement in underride safety,” Kara Kenney, Oct. 9, 2014