When a passenger vehicle in Texas collides with any part of a large truck, the results can be deadly. The higher ground clearance of the truck typically prevents the bumper of a car from stopping the forward motion, allowing it to travel under the trailer. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has proven the effectiveness of underride guards on the backs of semi-trailers in preventing many rear-end collisions from becoming fatalities.
Underride is believed to be a factor in roughly half of all fatal collisions involving tractor trailers and passenger vehicles. Crashing into the side of a trailer typically has the same effect as a rear-end accident, shearing off the roof of the car. While 292 people died in rear-end crashes with semi-trucks in 2015, data shows that more than 300 of the passenger vehicle deaths involved in large truck accidents were killed in side impacts. A new side guard may reduce this number significantly, researchers from the IIHS said.
In one test conducted by the agency, two sedans going 35 mph were each driven into the side of a trailer. The car that struck a trailer with a side underride protection device was stopped, and the vehicle’s restraint systems and airbags were effective. The other car did not come to a stop until the entire front seat and a portion of the back seat were compacted and lodged underneath the trailer.
According to the Commercial Carrier Journal, trucking industry leaders do not believe mandating the guards is a failsafe solution. On a standard trailer that is 53 feet long, 72 percent of it is exposed without a guard, but 38 percent is still unprotected even with a guard in place. They also claim that the weight of the guards could compromise the integrity of trailer structures, which could affect overall crash safety negatively.