Q: Are there truck safety standards for underride guards?
Ever since taking driver’s education you’ve been weary of driving near trucks. Their size and limited maneuverability have always made you nervous, not to mention the horror stories you’ve heard about rollovers and undercarriage accidents. However, your fears were taken to a new level when your husband was in a serious underride collision last month.
Your husband was coming home from work and was stuck in rush hour traffic. Traffic was barely going 40 mph when an SUV came tearing up behind him. The driver apparently wasn’t paying any attention and slammed straight into his bumper, sending your husband flying into the back of a semi-truck. Although he wasn’t going extremely fast, the front end of his car smashed into the truck’s underride guard and crumpled about three feet towards him. Unfortunately, the guard snapped before all the force had dissipated. It sliced through the mangled hood, and impaled itself into your husband’s thigh.
Although the car was completely totaled and his leg was badly cut, your husband survived the ordeal with only a broken leg and several lacerations. The rescue crew that pulled him out of his car told him he was extremely lucky that the guard held out for as long as it did, otherwise he could have been cut in half by the trailer’s edge.
Although you are extremely thankful that he survived, you can’t help but be scared of what could have happened. What if the guard wasn’t there? What if it didn’t hold? What would have happened if it was strong enough to keep the car back, would your husband have been spared his limp? How are these guards mandated for safety?
Underride Guard Safety Standards
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), underride guards are one of the main defenses trucks have to decrease underride fatalities. By keeping cars from being able to slide underneath trailers, they can help prevent gruesome decapitations, severe injuries, and death. However, in order to function properly they need to be well-maintained and kept within safety standards.
These standards, enforced by the Bureau of Motor Carriers and Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards, include:
- 1953 standards (covering straight truck and trailers). These standards required that 38.6 percent of straight trucks and 56.9 percent of tractor-trailers had underride guards with a minimum guard height of 30 inches from the ground—on trucks with cargo beds they must be 30 or more inches off the ground—and 24 inches from the rear wheels. The only strength requirement was that the guard be substantially constructed, and attached by means of bolts or welding.
- 1998 standards. As stated in the FMVS Standards 223 and 224, the above standards were updated and strengthened in the late 1990s and pertain to trailers and semi-trailers. The guard height was lowered to 22 inches, and the wheel setback dimension was shortened to 12 inches. Strength and testing standards were also added. The underride guard must additionally extend to within four inches of the sides of the truck and be able to withstand the force of 22,000 pounds of force.
As stated, the 1953 rule applied to both straight trucks and trailers, and because the 1998 standard applies only to trailers and semi-trailers, it still continues to be the controlling rule on rear-impact protection for straight trucks. It also applies to trailers and semi-trailers manufactured before January 26, 1998.
Security for When Underride Guards Fail
If you or a loved one has recently been injured as a result of a failed underride guard and need help with your injury claim, contact us today. Our knowledge and eagerness to fight for you will help prove to you why having an experienced lawyer is the first step to getting the settlement you deserve. We know the law and want to help you get the justice you deserve. Call now for a free consultation.
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