Crashing Beneath the Rear or Side of a Truck or Trailer When a passenger car penetrates beneath… or “underrides”…the tall rear or side of a large truck or trailer, the results are often severe to fatal head trauma, or even decapitation. Typical defective guards are too high above the ground, too narrow across the rear, and too weak. And there are no side guards at all.
Typical of many rear underride accidents, such as shown here, is when the driver tries at the last second to steer around the left side or right side of the slowly-moving or stopped trailer ahead. The passenger vehicle impacts the outboard portion of the rear guard, which bends or breaks, acting much like a swinging gate. Consequently, the underride tragedy occurs.
Rear underride guard devices are typically much too weak
Compliance with the minimum requirements Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard 223-224 does not ensure a reasonably safe rear guard.
FMVSS 223-224 requires only a “slow push” test at centrally-located portions of the guard, at only 22,400 pounds. There are no dynamic test requirements to accurately reflect the strength needed for offset rear impacts. Which I’ve shown in the adjacent photo. As a trucking expert, I have long urged that the test requirement be at least 60,000 lbs. resistive load at any location across the rear guard. Including at the outboard corners. Too many guards are also too high above the road, at 20 to 22 inches. Therefore, 16 to 18 inches would be more effective.
Lack of any side guards is disgraceful
Many tragic underride accidents occur when a large tractor-trailer is making a turn or changing lanes or pulling in or out of a driveway. The passenger vehicle becomes entrapped and crushed beneath the tall open side of the long trailer. About 200 Americans are killed each year in such side underride tragedies.
Side underride guards have been feasible since at least the 1960’s, but the trucking industry and trailer manufacturers have failed to equip trailers with such clearly-needed safety features. In the adjacent photo in England, a trucking expert shows side guards that have been used in Europe for decades. U.S. trailer manufacturers have been indifferent to doing so. Some recent U.S. trailers have been equipped with aerodynamic side skirts (to help increase fuel economy). However, they need to be further strengthened to become more effective as side underride prevention guards.
The merits of pursuing a truck underride case and hiring a trucking expert
If you represent the victim or the family of someone who was severely injured or killed in such a truck underride accident, these truck underride cases can help bring justice and compensation for the tragic consequences. Such truck underride litigation cases will also serve to send the message to the trucking industry and trailer manufacturers to get serious and correct the defects. Trucks and trailers on our highways should long ago have been equipped with strong, effective rear guards and side guards. It is disgraceful that both the industry and NHTSA have been so indifferent toward correcting this needless hazard.
About The Author
EXPERT WITNESS E-007316
This highly qualified automotive expert witness is a national court-qualified auto safety expert, and for over 40 years has been evaluating accident vehicles as to their crash-worthiness. He has testified at Congressional Hearings, taught a seminar series at the University of Maryland, lectured at colleges and to professional groups, appeared on many national TV programs, authored many articles, and has served as an expert in product-liability cases. He is the founder and director of the recently established Institute for Car Crash Justice.
B.A., University of California Los Angeles
Member, Society of Automotive Engineers
Member, Industrial Designers Society of America
Member, American Society of Safety Engineers
Former, Staff Industrial Designer and Human Factors Engineer, Dunlap and Associates, Inc.
Former, Product Planning Coordinator, Industrial Electronic Engineers, Inc.
Current, Owner and Principal, vehicle safety design consulting firm