The National Transportation Safety Board recently announced it would recommend that companies take action to strengthen an important piece of safety equipment on tractor-trailers. The new recommendations concern under-ride guards that have previously been found to fail and lead to deadly accidents.
Under-ride guards are common devices that most every driver who pays attention will notice. They are metal grates that attach to the back of a tractor-trailer and are designed to prevent a passenger vehicle, specifically low profile sedans and other cars, from becoming trapped under the truck in the event of an accident. The under-ride crash can happen when a truck stops short, a passenger vehicle rear-ends a semi or a chain reaction crash pushes a passenger vehicle underneath a tractor-trailer.
Though you might suspect under-ride crashes as being dangerous, in the same way that all car accidents can be, the reality is that under-ride crashes are vastly more deadly than other types of collisions and need to be carefully guarded against. The reason is that in the event of an under-ride accident, a passenger vehicle’s most important safety features often fail to perform in the way that they should. When the passenger compartment of a car is wedged underneath a tractor-trailer, it renders the car’s airbags and specially engineered crumple zones effectively useless. According to data gathered by the NTSB, more than 530 people die each and ever year in crashes from riding underneath a tractor-trailer.
According to the NTSB’s new recommendations, the under-ride guards located at the rear of the truck need to be strengthened to ensure they are effective in the event of an accident today. The initial regulations concerning under-ride guard specifications were made years ago and have not changed to reflect the sleeker and lower profile cars that are on the roads now. Additionally, many of the rear under-ride guards in use today are poorly maintained and have been shown to sheer off with little force, something that renders them totally ineffective.
Beyond strengthening rear under-ride guards, the NTSB says that side under-ride protection should also be implemented on tractor-trailers, reducing another common vulnerability in car/truck accidents.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration now says it will review the NTSB’s recommendations, giving the agency’s views some serious thought. According to the NHTSA, it is always looking to increase safety and prevent injury to unsuspecting motorists. It intends to use the data gathered by the NTSB to determine the most effective rules to hand down to commercial truck drivers and operators.