Side underride accidents may be the most devastating of all tractor trailer crashes that happen today other than rollovers. These deadly accidents claim many lives every year and leave many others seriously injured. Sadly, truck crash lawyers realize that most of these fatalities could be prevented by adding a simple piece of equipment to the side of the trailer. Unfortunately, Congress has not yet acted to make sideguards mandatory on tractor trailers.
Side Underride Accidents Are Horrific
A side underride accident is one where a car crashes into the side of a tractor trailer and the force of the impact pushes the smaller vehicle underneath the trailer. Crash statistics show that as many as 200 people lose their lives every year in these type of wrecks. These tractor trailer crashes are known by truck crash lawyers and safety advocates to be particularly horrific, often involving the decapitation of occupants of the smaller vehicle.
Side and Rear Guards Make A Difference
Side and rear underride accidents involve smaller passenger vehicles that slide under the side or rear of a tractor trailer, often resulting in the vehicle top being smashed or even sheared off. Since rear underride accidents were so deadly, Congress did pass a law requiring that all trailers be equipped with rear guards to prevent other vehicles from sliding beneath the trailer.
These guards were officially required beginning in 1998 and are known in the industry as “Mansfield bars,” in remembrance of actress Jayne Mansfield who was killed in a rear underride crash. They have already saved countless numbers of lives. Trucks in Europe are equipped with both rear and sideguards to prevent serious accidents involving non-truck traffic. It took the NHTSA 40 years to begrudgingly require that rear guards be mandatory, but they do work. Still, no such requirement for sideguards has been made.
Congress Dragging Its Heels
Despite the evidence suggesting that the addition of sideguards to the undersides of tractor trailers is necessary, Congress continues to bypass writing an actual law requiring such equipment. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) even released a study suggesting that sideguards would dramatically reduce the severity of these tractor trailer crashes. They recommended in 2014 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) make sideguards a requirement. Still, there has been no action.
Many people, from the families of accident victims to safety organizations and even truck crash lawyers are once again ramping up the pressure for the NHTSA and Congress to act; however, thus far there has been little in terms of a response.
Opposition To The Rule
Those opposing this regulation have voiced arguments about increased trailer production costs, weight increases, and how adding sideguards could affect the structural integrity of the trailer. At the head of the opposition is the Truck Trailers Manufacturing Association (TTMA), which has spent millions of dollars supporting the Senate Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee which has the power to make the NHTSA add such a rule.
Although the TTMA apparently states that their donations were not for any particular gain, many feel this suggests a conflict of interest which is preventing the implementation of important safety regulations that could be saving lives.
Currently, the public continues to plead for a law to make sideguards mandatory on tractor trailers; however, Congress continues to delay acting on this. Until the time comes that this equipment is required, families, safety organizations, and truck crash lawyers who deal with the effects of deadly side underride tractor trailer crashes can only keep the pressure on!
Hildebrand & Wilson, LLP
Robert W. Hildebrand, Attorney at Law
J. Daniel Wilson, Attorney at Law
7830 Broadway, Suite 122
Pearland TX 77581
Phone: (281) 408-2190