Torque News has been covering the safety issues related to tractor trailer underride accidents for many years. When we checked in last, we reported that the Institute For Highway Safety had concluded a study on this type of accidents and had determined a solution was at hand. Unfortunately, NHTSA and the federal government are heading towards an easy decision that will improve safety slightly when the group could have made more substantive changes.
Underride accidents are particularly deadly because cars and other passenger vehicles that strike the rear of parked tractor trailers really have no protection against such an impact. Since the front of the vehicle goes under the rear of trailer there is no crash structure to protect occupants. Trailers do have a set of angle-steel bars that come down below the trailer to provide an impact-point for cars, but they are mostly window dressing. The bars fold up under the trailer, and the car is destroyed, often killing the occupants in the car.
Canada has slightly tougher standard for the safety structure under trailers and the U.S. is headed towards adopting those standards. Though a good step, IIHS has found that there are better ways to design the safety structure at the rear of trailers. "We had hoped for a more a meaningful upgrade to the outdated standard for rear underride guards," says Adrian Lund, IIHS president. "As written, this proposal will have a minimal impact on safety. We urge NHTSA not to miss the opportunity to address a wider range of rear underride crashes."
The image above shows one of the designs that IIHS found does work and does offer protection to vehicle occupants that strike the rear of parked trailers at speeds up to 35 MPH. For more information on the subject, please check out IIHS’ website.
Image courtesy of IIHS.