Commercial trucks in the United States come equipped with underride guards. Underride guards are the metal pieces that hang down the back end of a box trailer. The purpose of these guards is to reduce the chances of a fatality if a passenger vehicle strikes the back of the truck. Without the guard, the back of the trailer would strike many vehicles at windshield height.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration currently requires underride guards to be strong enough to protect passengers in crashes up to 30 miles per hour. The NHTSA is proposing a change in guard standards to protect passengers up to 35 mph. The goal is to reduce traffic fatalities in rear-impact collisions involving semi trucks.
An estimated 400 people per year lose their lives when their vehicles strike the backs of semi trucks. The NHTSA believes that stronger underride guards will redue that number. The change would also bring U.S. trucks in line with the safety requirements in Canada. Many of the trucks currently being sold meet the 35 mph standard already, with roughly seven percent falling short. The total industry expense to fully comply is estimated at $13 million.
The pressure to change the underride guard standard has been growing for years. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, the Truck Safety Coalition and the National Transportation Safety Board have all come out in support of stronger guards over the years. The NHTSA proposal will now be open to public commentary for 60 days. After that, the agency will issue a final regulation.
Source: Bloomberg, “Stronger Truck Guards Proposed to Cut Rear-Impact Deaths,” by Jeff Plungis, 7 December 2015