This horrifying photo of a recent truck accident in Marshall, Michigan is a shocking example of what happens when truck underride guards are not strong enough to withstand rear-end impacts.
What is an underride guard? You’ve probably noticed while driving behind large commercial trucks, there are metal bars that hang down from the bottom rear of the trailer. These metal bars are called “underride” guards, and the purpose is to prevent cars from slipping underneath the commercial truck in rear-end crashes.
These guard rails don’t look like much. And the truth is, they’re not really substantial. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has released a report indicating that underride guard bars are grossly inadequate and not strong enough to withstand most impacts when struck by a car exceeding 35 MPH — despite the fact that truck manufacturers have recently improved upon them.
Sadly, the United States has fallen behind Europe and Canada in the safety of truck underride guards. As an auto accident attorney from Michigan, I’ve also litigated a number of serious truck accident cases involving Canadian trucks, including an underride case that was nearly fatal. Canada has underride strength requirements that are twice as high as those in the U.S.
Here’s the full IIHS report: Crash Test Performance of Large Truck Rear Underride Guards
I’ve handled several catastrophic truck accident cases involving underrides, so I’m regrettably familiar with these truck underride accident cases. When a car comes upon a commercial truck in the road and isn’t able to stop in time (whether the truck has stopped or the car is speeding), the underride bar for most trucks on the roads today will fail, and the smaller car slams into the trailer and becomes wedged under the truck. It’s a horrifying scenario, as you can see above. The injuries are normally mortal or catastrophic for the people involved in these crashes.
In the Marshall, Michigan truck accident, a 25-year-old man sustained critical head and chest injuries when his pickup truck slammed into the rear of a semi truck making a U-turn on I-69, according to an article in the Lansing State Journal, “Trucker making U-turn on I-69 results in serious crash.”
The trucker was not hurt in the crash. But the pick-up traveled under the trailer, shearing the cab of the truck to the rear window.
In 2011, 260 people died in truck underride accidents. With better guards, many of these deaths would be preventable.
We know with statistical certainty that these car-truck underride crashes will continue to occur. The challenge and the need we have today is to strengthen notably weak underride guards now so we can minimize loss of life.
Here are a few solutions from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration:
- Strengthen the impact requirements. For instance, in Canada, as I wrote above, regulations requires these bars to withstand twice as much force as the current American equivalent.
- Require the underride guards to be wider and cover the entire rear of the truck.
- Require truck underride guards to be placed on the sides of the trailer as well, not just the back.
- Require the guard to protrude lower from the bottom of the trailer and closer to the road.