Crash-test analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that underride guards on tractor-trailers can fail even in relatively low-speed crashes, and the group is petitioning the federal government to require stronger guards that will remain in place during a crash and to mandate guards for more big rigs and trailers.
Rear guards are the main countermeasure for reducing underride deaths and injuries when a passenger vehicle crashes into the back of a tractor-trailer, the group said Tuesday.
“Cars’ front-end structures are designed to manage a tremendous amount of crash energy in a way that minimizes injuries for their occupants,” said IIHS President Adrian Lund.
“Hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer. You might be riding in a vehicle that earns top marks in frontal crash tests, but if the truck’s underride guard fails — or isn’t there at all — your chances of walking away from even a relatively low-speed crash aren’t good,” he said in a statement.
In 2009, 70% of the 3,163 people who died in all large truck crashes were occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles, the group said, adding that underride guards make death or serious injury more likely since the upper part of the passenger vehicle’s occupant compartment typically crushes as the truck body intrudes into the vehicle safety cage.
American Trucking Associations President Bill Graves told CBS News in an interview aired Tuesday on the subject that the trucking industry recognizes that the standards set almost 50 years ago are “not adequate today.”
David Strickland, head of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said in a statement Tuesday that NHTSA is undertaking a review of the issue, which it expects to complete by next year.
The agency “recently unveiled the most rigorous crash safety standards in history as part of a new five-star safety ratings program [and has] continued looking for ways to strengthen crash safety standards . . . including the current truck underride standard,” he said in a statement.
NHTSA identified underride performance as part of current standards that need improvement, “and today’s IIHS report is consistent with our findings.” Strickland said. “As a result of NHTSA’s 2009 review, the agency initiated an in-depth field analysis to determine how we can improve current federal motor vehicle safety standard requirements.”