Bipartisan bill would mandate side underride guards

Truck accidents claim the lives of many road users around the country each year, and some of the most catastrophic of these crashes occur when passenger vehicles slide under the sides of tractor-trailers. Underride guards are a straightforward and effective way of preventing this kind of tragedy, but current regulations only require them to be fitted to the rear of commercial vehicles. However, the regulatory landscape may be changing soon as a bipartisan bill that would require truck operators in Pennsylvania and throughout the U.S. to fit these safety devices to the front and sides of their vehicles is making its way through Congress.

In addition to mandating the installation of front and side underride guards, the bill would toughen the standards for rear guards, which have not been updated since 1998. The legislation would require the installation of front, side and rear underride guards that are strong enough to prevent vehicles traveling at speeds of up to 35 mph from sliding under trailers.

Figures from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reveal that accidents involving passenger vehicles striking the side of a semi-tractor trailers claimed 295 lives in 2016, but a number of trade groups oppose the pending legislation. The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association says that the added weight of side underride guards could weaken other safety components and actually make tractor-trailers more dangerous. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association is said to be still reviewing the proposed law and has yet to take a firm position.

Accidents involving passenger vehicles that strike the sides of tractor-trailers often occur at intersections, and the lawsuits filed on behalf of big rig accident victims may hinge on establishing who had the right of way. When accident investigations reach no firm conclusions, experienced personal injury attorneys may seek to gather additional evidence. These efforts could include checking the accident scene for security cameras that may have recorded the events unfolding.