Why Are We Waiting to Make Side Guards on Trucks Mandatory?

October 11th, 2017 by Guajardo & Marks, LLP

Every year, 200 people die in side underride crashes with tractor-trailers.

Side underride crashes most often occur when a tractor-trailer jack-knifes and a car slams into the side of the trailer, right between the axles. In a crash like this, most of a vehicle’s safety features are worthless. The entire top part of the vehicle may be sheared off. When that happens, the car’s occupants can be immediately sliced in half.

Four people in two separate vehicles died in a side underride crash in Canton, NY, this July. A milk tanker truck swerved on I-81; when the driver lost control, the vehicle jack-knifed. Within seconds, two cars hit the underside of the trailer. The three people in one car died first, and moments later the driver of the second car plowed under the trailer to his death.

Side Guards Save Lives

In the wake of the accident in New York, U.S. Senator Charles Schumer called for the federal government to require trailers to be equipped with side guards. These guards would undergird the main body of the trailer on both sides, and are designed to prevent oncoming cars from going under the trailer in the case of an accident.

Of course, one of the main questions about Senator Schumer’s proposal is whether side guards are effective at saving lives.

Early indications look good so far. Earlier this year, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) performed a pair of 35-mph crash tests, one with a trailer equipped with an aerodynamic side skirt and another with an AngelWing side underride protection device.

In these tests, the side underride guard performed well. It was bent, but it prevented the car from going under the trailer. In the unprotected test, half of the car’s top was sheared off. If the unprotected test had been a real accident, it’s a near-certainty that the car’s driver and front passenger would have been killed on impact. IIHS chief research officer David Zuby says, “Our tests and research show that side underride guards have the potential to save lives.”

On the other hand, critics of these tests might say that a one-time test at 35-mph hardly proves the underride guard’s effectiveness at highway speeds.

With Senator Schumer’s recent push in favor of side guards, government action may be imminent. However, side guards have been on the table in one form or another for nearly 50 years.

Senator John Thune of South Dakota, who heads the Senate Commerce Committee, has received $133,250 from the trucking sector of the transportation industry in the last six years. Do these donations have anything to do with the federal government’s lack of action on this front?

Not according to Senator Thune. In a recent interview, he said it is an “absolute fallacy” to think these donations have played any role in the Commerce Committee’s inaction.

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If you or a loved one has been injured in an accident, you may be eligible for a personal injury claim. Contact Guajardo & Marks as soon as possible. Guajardo & Marks of Dallas have more than 20 years of experience and have the knowledge and resources to effectively help you get the compensation to which you are entitled. If you have questions or would like to set up an appointment, contact us online or call us at 972.774.9800.