Personal Injury

Truck Accidents: NHTSA Proposes New Side Underride Guard Mandate to Improve Road Safety

A blue tractor-trailer with side underride guards travels down a Texas roadway at sunset.

Underride accidents can have severe and fatal consequences.

Among the most devastating traffic accidents are those involving commercial trucks, given their substantial size and weight. When a tractor-trailer collides with a smaller vehicle, the occupants of the smaller vehicle are at a significantly higher risk of sustaining severe injuries or even fatalities. The impact of truck accidents extends beyond the immediate victims, affecting families, communities, and the overall transportation system.

Recognizing the need to enhance road safety and reduce the occurrence of fatal accidents involving 18-wheelers, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has proposed a new mandate for side underride guards. Side underride guards are safety devices designed to prevent smaller vehicles from sliding underneath the sides of commercial trucks in the event of a collision. By creating a physical barrier between the semi-truck and the smaller vehicle, side underride guards aim to mitigate the severity of accidents and save lives.

Overview of the Proposed Mandate

According to a report by FleetOwner Magazine, the NHTSA's proposed mandate comes as a result of a comprehensive study on the efficacy of side underride guards, which was mandated by the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act.

This study, completed in 2022, estimated that making side underride guards mandatory could save approximately 17 lives and prevent 69 serious injuries annually. These potential benefits have led the NHTSA to seek public feedback on the technology through an Advanced Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (ANPRM).

The proposed side underride guard mandate represents a proactive step towards enhancing road safety and ensuring appropriate measures are in place to protect all road users.

Understanding Side Underride Guards

Side underride guards are safety devices installed on the sides of commercial trucks, between the wheels, to prevent smaller vehicles from sliding underneath the tractor-trailer in the event of a collision. These guards consist of reinforced metal or other sturdy materials and are designed to create a physical barrier that can absorb and redirect the force of impact.

Underride guards help maintain the structural integrity of both vehicles and provide a protective buffer zone for the smaller vehicle's occupants. Research and crash tests have demonstrated the potential effectiveness of side underride guards in reducing the severity of accidents. According to the NHTSA, side underride guards are most effective at speeds of 40 mph or slower. At these speeds, they can reduce fatalities by 97% and severe injuries by 85%.

The implementation of side underride guards has the potential to significantly minimize the risk of a smaller vehicle getting crushed underneath a tractor-trailer, which often leads to catastrophic outcomes. Side underride guards help to dissipate and distribute the forces of impact and prevent the truck's trailer from breaching the inside of the other vehicle.

Advisory Committee on Underride Protection

To further study the issue of underride protection and provide recommendations, the NHTSA has established the Advisory Committee on Underride Protection. Comprising 16 members with expertise in various relevant fields, this committee plays a crucial role in informing future actions and ensuring that key stakeholders have a seat at the table regarding the side underride guard mandate and other related matters.

The work of the Advisory Committee on Underride Protection will extend beyond the immediate consideration of side underride guards. It will explore a range of topics and potential solutions to improve road safety and mitigate the risks associated with truck accidents. The committee will generate recommendations that can shape future regulations, technological advancements, training programs, and other initiatives by analyzing crash data, conducting studies, and engaging with experts.

These recommendations may encompass a wide range of actions, such as refining existing underride guard requirements, exploring additional safety measures, advocating for improved driver training and adherence to FMCSA guidelines, and fostering collaboration between stakeholders to address road safety challenges holistically.

Seeking Legal Help After a Truck Accident

At Tracey Fox & Walters, our Texas truck accident attorneys have a deep understanding of the regulations and laws specific to the trucking industry, including FMCSA guidelines. Our dedicated legal team has the knowledge and resources to conduct a thorough investigation, collect critical evidence, determine liability, and build a strong case that demands accountability.

We have a track record of securing significant settlements and verdicts in truck accident cases, including a $2,000,000 settlement (Attorneys' Fees & Expenses: $800,000) for the surviving family members of a worker killed in a trucking accident involving negligence. To learn how we can help with your potential legal case, contact us today for a free case evaluation. We have offices in Houston, Dallas, and San Antonio, TX.

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