Will a New Rule Help Prevent Fatal Truck Underride Accidents?
A "final rule" that upgrades truck underride guard standards is expected to save lives, but some safety advocates say the government could be doing a lot more to stop fatal underride truck accidents.
The National Highway Transportation and Safety Administration (NHTSA) rule amends existing safety regulations. It focuses on better rear underride guards for large trucks and trailers. However, some advocates were disappointed the rule did not make side underride guards a requirement. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) says that the NHTSA should set higher standards for safety equipment.
"NHTSA's updated rule does not go far enough to be meaningful," IIHS President David Harkey said in a statement. "To truly reduce the number of lives lost in underride crashes, NHTSA needs to incorporate changes that would require crash testing of guards when mounted on trailers, allow fewer exemptions for other kinds of trucks and improve protection in offset crashes."
What is an underride truck accident?
Underride accidents happen when a smaller vehicle hits the rear or side of a semi-truck, tractor-trailer, or another type of large truck and gets lodged underneath it. With nothing to stop the car, the smaller vehicle slides below the truck's trailer or cargo transport unit. This often destroys the cab, killing everyone inside. Safety advocates estimate that 80-90 percent of underride truck accidents are fatal.
Underride guards don't prevent underride accidents, but they reduce the risk that collisions will be fatal. The guard is intended to stop smaller vehicles sliding underneath a truck before the cab makes contact with the rear.
The NHTSA amendment upgrades standards for rear underride guard strength and energy absorption. These benchmarks were set to protect occupants of a compact or subcompact passenger vehicle in a 35 mph collision with the back of a parked semi-truck. The new rule would also require underride guards to pass an annual inspection.
Currently, most large trailers require underride guards that can withstand a crash. However, underride guards on single-unit large trucks are not required to hold up in a car accident.
The final rule on underrides was spurred by requirements in the trillion-dollar Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act and announced in late June. A "final rule" is an administrative government term that means a proposed rule or change has already gone through a public comment period. In addition, there is a 45-day petition period to get through before the rule is enforceable.
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