REAR UNDERRIDE GUARDS are metal bumpers that hang from the back of a trailer and prevent vehicles from riding beneath a tractor in a rear end collision. Although rear guards must meet federal safety standards, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has found many underride guards buckle, break or fail in relatively low-speed crashes — with deadly consequences.
EXAMPLE OF REAR UNDERRIDE GUARD
Rear guards are the main safety measure for reducing underride deaths and injuries when a passenger vehicle crashes into the back of a tractor-trailer. In 2009, 70 percent of the 3,163 people who died in all large truck crashes were occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles. Underride makes death or serious injury more likely since the upper part of the passenger vehicle’s occupant compartment typically crushes as the truck body intrudes into the vehicle safety cage.
Cars are designed to absorb crash energy to minimize injury to their occupants. According to Adrian Lund, President of IIHS, “hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer. You might be riding in a vehicle that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails… your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good.”
Defective Underride Guard During 35-mph Full Width Test
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates more than 5,000 passenger vehicle occupants are injured and 423 each year when their vehicles strike the backs of large trucks. IIHS analyzed 1,000 large truck crashes of which 78% involved underride collisions.
According to Lund, damage to the cars in some of these tests was so devastating that it’s hard to watch the footage without wincing. If these had been real-world crashes, there would be no survivors.”
Decapitation is a serious threat in underrides. In 3 of the crash tests the heads of the dummies in the car made contact with either the intruding trailer or the car’s hood after it tore free and pushed into the occupant compartment during a center rear collision at only 35 mph.
35 mph Full Width Crash into Rear of Hyundai Trailer
35 mph Full Width Crash into Rear of Wabash Trailer
The Institute also ran tests with overlaps of 50 percent and 30 percent to find out what happens when a car hits the trailer with only part of its front instead of head-on.
In a 35 mph test with a 50 percent overlap, the guard on a Vanguard trailer allowed severe underride. The trailer was made by Vanguard National Trailer Corp., and the guard is certified to U.S. and Canadian standards. In contrast, the Wabash trailer’s guard successfully prevented underride in the same test. The outcome for the Wabash was different when the overlap was reduced to 30 percent. The struck end of the guard bent forward, and there was severe underride.
This test shows that even the strongest guard left as much as half of the rear of the trailer vulnerable to severe underride. The guard only worked as intended when the striking car engaged the center.
Severe Underride – Vanguard Trailer at 35 mph with 50% Overlap
No Underride – Wabash Trailer at 35 mph with 50% Overlap
Offset tests put stress on the unsupported outboard ends of the underride guard. The vertical frame that attaches the guard to the trailer chassis is closer to the center of the guard and farther away from the ends. Therefore, preventing underride in narrow overlap crashes may only require stronger support and wider vertical frames.
Another problem is that regulatory gaps allow many heavy trucks to forgo guards altogether. When they are present on exempt trucks, guards don’t have to meet 1996 rules for strength or energy absorption.
“Underride standards haven’t kept pace with improvements in passenger vehicle crashworthiness,” Lund says. “Absent regulation, there’s little incentive for manufacturers to improve underride countermeasures, so we hope NHTSA will move quickly on our petition.”
According to Truck Safety Advocate and Attorney, Patrick Steinfeld, “while we have seen significant improvement in the crash worthiness of automobiles in the last decade, there has been little improvement on strength or energy absorption of underride guards in the last 20 years.”
“We encourage the Federal Government to make our roads safer for the traveling public by mandating new rules regulating strength and energy absorption of rear underride guards.
THE TRUCK LAWYERS
The Truck Lawyers are interstate truck accident attorneys providing local and national representation to victims in cases involving commercial vehicles including rear underride collisions.
If you or a loved one was involved in a rear underride collision (regardless of apparent fault) please call The Truck Lawyers today at (800) 900-7452.
THE TRUCK LAWYERS