Feb 20, 2019 Last Updated 3:19 PM, Oct 3, 2017

The Upside of Underride Guards


It has been recommended by the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) that side underride guards be mandatory on trailers with a gross vehicle weight (GVW) over 10,000 lbs.

A Deadly Trend

Earlier this spring, the NTSB pressed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require guards on big trucks. Adding these underride guards will theoretically prevent passenger cars from colliding under 18-wheelers.  It is also being recommended by the NTSB that the NHTSA require highway tractors with a GVW above 26,000 lbs. to have side underride guards.

Between 2005 and 2009, an estimated 43,629 vehicles crashed into the sides of the trailers of 18-wheelers, according to police reports. A report issued by the NHTSA stated that side impacts made up 15% of fatal two-vehicle collisions between 18-wheelers and passenger vehicles in 2011.  Further data from the NTSB states that wrecks involving passenger vehicle with the sides of tractor-trailers led to over 15,000 injuries between 2001-2003.

New Regulations

The NTSB is also seeking modifications to existing rear underride regulations.  They have concluded that rear underride related injuries could be lowered by making modifications to the design of the guard.

Furthermore, NTSB believes that NHTSA should include trailer VIN and the model year to the Fatality Analysis Reporting System database for trailers with GVWRs over 10,000 pounds. 

NTSB Chairman Deborah Hersman believes it is important for the police reports to track further information about what trailers were involved in the accident as opposed to just information about the passenger vehicle. At present, this information isn’t required. Adding the trailer’s VIN can help easily identify the trailer’s manufacturer, model year, and other important features.

Better Information, Safer Roadways
More detailed information will help the NTSB collect better data to help track injuries and fatalities on the state and national level.  Thus, one could more easily identify threats connected with a trailer’s designs and then assess if the safety regulations in place are efficient or are in need of changing.

For example, reflectors on the back of a trailer are not required and thus they pose a threat whether driving down the road or parker off on the shoulder. Having the appropriate data, the NTSB could determine how many accidents were caused but that issue.

Currently, rear underride guards are mandatory for new tractor-trailer trucks (though, many believe that the guards that are being used need to be upgraded in design as they have failed in keeping cars from sliding underneath the trailer). The The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) guesstimates that just 18 percent of new single unit trucks are set with rear impact guards which fall in line with the would-be regulation. The new regulations requires 59% of newly manufactured single-unit trailers to come standard with rear impact guards above what they’re currently produced with.

Currently, most trucking companies are not required to add them onto their older trucks (it isn’t cost effective for them). Side underride guards are not required at this time. Side underride guards are not required at all.

Promising Tests out of Canada

American safety experts are praising a Canadian-made transport trailer for guarding a vehicle’s occupants as it crashed into the back end of a trailer.

Designed by Manac and Trainmobile out of Quebec, their trailers were the only ones to pass all three of the rear underrider’s tests as directed by the Virginia-based Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS).

American trailers developed to tougher Canadian standards failed the tests. This quickly led to the IIHS to calling for standards to match those of the Manac trailers more closely. Dubbed the Mansfield bars, the underrider guard transfers the construction of the trailer from deck height down to a level well suited for cars.

Designed for Safety
Most big trucks have been designed to deal with front-end accidents. Most will crush and absorb the blunt of the impact in order to protect the passenger. Should a vehicle crash into the underride guard, the front of the vehicle will crush just as it would in any other vehicle-to-vehicle accident. This isn’t to say that there wouldn’t be injuries, but it should cut down on the severity of the injuries suffered and possibly even save lives altogether.

However, there is the possibility that the guard could move during the wreck, still allowing the vehicle to slam up underneath the trailer.

The IIHS tested the bars in full-width crashes, 50% overlap (where the end of the bar is at the center of the car) and at 30% overlap, the toughest standard. (The IIHS chose 30% because that was the minimum amount of impact that could still result in the trailer striking the head of the occupant on the side of impact). All tests used a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu due to it being a Top Safety Pick. This helps ensure that any defects are in the trailer’s design instead of the vehicle itself.

All trailers tested passed the full-width impact, adequately transferring the force of the accident to the structure of the trailer and allowing the cars crush zones to properly protect the passengers. All but one, those build by Vanguard, passed the 50% overlap test and all but the Manac trailers failed the 30% overlap test.

The usual failure stemmed from the horizontal bars that bent outside the vertical supports or those where the vertical support on the side of impact failed.

Manac believes that changes to current trucks could be made for relatively cheap (the guard cost around $20). In addition, after an accident, tests show that the underride guard is generally the only part needing repairs. This will greatly help save money in repairs. 

A Shared Responsibility
Even with safety equipment in place and new regulations for truck drivers, it is important that passenger vehicle drivers share the road with 18-wheelers. Keep in mind that a big truck cannot speed up nor (especially) slow down as quickly as a car, so you need to adjust accordingly.

All drivers need to practice alert driving on the roadways, being sure to put away their cell phones and dealing accordingly with other distractions such as changing settings in your vehicle, talking intensely with other passengers, driving while drowsy, and so forth. Many accidents can be avoided when safe driving practices are adopted.

Attorneys who will Help You

But, as it goes in life, even the safest drivers may find themselves in the midst of a nightmare that is a car accident. Wrecks involving big trucks are even worse and often result in the server injury or death of a loved one. Emotions and stress can run high, and you may feel at a loss as to how to proceed.

Brian Mincher and Ryan Rogers of Godsey Martin law firm are ready to pick you back up and set you on the road to recovery. With their years of experience, they will fight for you to make sure you receive the monetary compensation you’re entitled to receive. 

Call them today at 877-IGOTHIT or fill out their free case evaluation form online.


Nathan Williamson

“I became an attorney because I wanted to make an impact. As attorneys we have unique opportunities that are not available in most professions. Those opportunities include the ability to advocate for change, take legal action to right wrongs, and be champions for justice. We are the gatekeepers of the law and help individuals who are faced with challenging situations navigate a complex and sometimes flawed legal system.”

“I met my wife while she worked as an assistant at the University of Oklahoma College of Law Library during my first year of law school. She is currently the Health Sciences Librarian at the University of Texas at Arlington.”

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