Most Truck Underride Guards Fail To Stop Deadly Crashes, Study Says


  • Crash Test Picture

    Crash Test Picture

    Underride hazards are highlighted in new crash tests by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety. | March 14, 2013

2 Photos

Just the Facts:
  • Underride guards on the back of tractor-trailers don't always protect passenger vehicles from sliding beneath a truck's trailer in a crash, according to new crash test results.
  • Decapitation is a serious threat in underride collisions, says the IIHS.
  • Most guards failed to prevent potentially fatal underride if a car hits the far outer edge of a trailer, the institute found.

ARLINGTON, Virginia — Underride guards on the back of tractor-trailers don't always protect passenger vehicles from sliding beneath a truck's trailer in a crash, according to new crash test results by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

Decapitation is a serious threat in underride collisions, the institute said. The steel guards are installed on the back ends of large truck trailers. The institute said it tested guard-equipped trailers from eight manufacturers, including Hyundai and Manac. All of the trailers had underride guards that met both U.S. and Canadian standards. The institute says the Canadian standards are tougher, requiring underride guards to withstand about twice as much force.

Most guards failed to prevent potentially fatal underride if a car hits the far outer edge of a trailer, the institute found. Video of the crash tests shows that the windshield can often become the point of impact, resulting in a crushed passenger compartment.

In February 2011, the institute petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for tougher standards.

"Although NHTSA hasn't responded yet, trailer manufacturers already are installing guards that are much stronger than the agency requires," said the institute in a statement on Thursday. "These guards generally work well to prevent underride, except in crashes occurring at the outer edges of trailers, the crash tests show."

In 2011, more than 250 people died in crashes in which passenger vehicles hit the rear of trailers on large trucks.

NHTSA says it is working to address the issues raised in the new report.

Edmunds says: In crashes of this kind, airbags, seatbelts and fancy safety systems offer little protection. So clearly, much more regulatory work is needed.

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