Insurance Institute for Highway Safety Recommends increasing trucker costs
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says new tests show how a well-built guard can prevent a passenger vehicle from sliding beneath the side of a semitrailer, and they should be mandatory.
The tests conducted this spring mark the first time that IIHS has evaluated a side underride guard. IIHS ran two 35-mph crash tests: one fitted with an underride protection device and one equipped with fiberglass skirts designed for aerodynamics. The results were dramatically different.
In both tests, a midsize car struck the center of a 53-foot-long dry van trailer. In the first test, the underride guard bent but didn’t allow the car to go underneath the trailer, so the car’s airbags and safety belt could properly restrain the test dummy in the driver seat. In the second test with no underride guard for protection, the car ran into the trailer and kept going. The impact sheared off part of the roof, and the sedan became wedged beneath the trailer. In a real-world crash like this, any occupants in the car would likely sustain fatal injuries.
The group says the latest tests illustrate the importance of countermeasures to prevent side underride crashes, too. In 2015, 301 of the 1,542 passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a tractor-trailer died when their vehicles struck the side of a tractor-trailer. This compares with the 292 people who died when their passenger vehicles struck the rear of a tractor-trailer. Because of gaps in federal crash data, IIHS researchers can’t determine exactly how many of these crashes involve underride, but they estimate that underride occurs in about half of fatal crashes between large trucks and passenger vehicles.
A 2012 IIHS study found that strong side underride guards have the potential to reduce injury risk in about three-fourths of large truck side crashes producing a fatality or serious injury to a passenger vehicle occupant. This proportion increased to almost 90 percent when restricted to crashes with semi trailers.
Federal law requires large trucks to have rear underride guards but not side underride guards.
“Our tests and research show that side underride guards have the potential to save lives,” says David Zuby, the Institute’s executive vice president and chief research officer. “We think a mandate for side underride guards on large trucks has merit, especially as crash deaths continue to rise on our roads.”
The wheels on a tractor and trailer offer some underride protection if a passenger vehicle were to strike them. With no side underride guard, only 28 percent of a 53-foot trailer’s length would be protected from underride. With the side underride guard in place, 62 percent of the trailer’s length would be protected. Side underride guards can be retrofitted to existing semitrailers