Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, Rep. Steve Cohen Unveil Underride Guard Legislation

Underride guard crash demonstration
Underride guard crash demonstration, with side guard on semitrailer in top photo and without guard in bottom photo. (IIHS via YouTube)

Legislation that would require the sides of trailers and the front of trucks to be equipped with underride guards was introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives and Senate on Dec. 12.

The companion bills, sponsored by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.), and Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), would direct the U.S. Department of Transportation to within a year of the bill’s passage issue a rule requiring side underride guards on trailers, semi-trailers, and single-unit trucks heavier than 10,000 pounds built on or after the rule’s effective date. From there, the industry would have one year to comply.



The secretary would have two years from the law’s adoption to issue a rule that extends to all of those types of equipment — meaning those built either before or after the rule’s effective date. The industry would have three years to comply.

The measure also would require DOT to issue a rule within two years of the bill’s enactment requiring front underride guards on commercial vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds manufactured on or after the rule’s effective date. The industry would have a year to comply. Within three years after the bill’s passage, DOT would be required to mandate front underride guards on all commercial vehicles heavier than 10,000 pounds. From there, the industry would have three years to comply.



“This is the type of legislation that does not have deep-pocket support; it doesn’t have interest groups with money to push it and to support it. But it has the interests of the people and the safety of the people. It’s the right kind of legislation that should be advocated in Congress more often,” Cohen said of the underride bill.

“We think better rear underride guards and requiring guards that protect the sides of tractor-trailers could save a lot of lives,” Russ Rader, senior vice president of the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, told Transport Topics on Dec. 13.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration in 2015 proposed a rule — which has not advanced — that called on motor carriers to adopt Canada’s rear underride guard standards, which are tougher than those in the United States.

American Trucking Associations told Transport Topics on Dec. 12 that it has supported efforts to strengthen rear underride guards. ATA added that NHTSA already is examining the potential benefits and drawbacks of broader adoption of side underride guards.

“[ATA] believe [NHTSA] should be able to continue with their work, and we look forward to the results of their research,” the federation said, adding that it is “committed to working with NHTSA, Congress and others on ways to improve highway safety, including fostering the development of promising vehicle technology like automatic emergency braking and collision warning systems, which can prevent many types of crashes in the first place, and supporting the new requirements for electronic logging devices, which studies have shown are associated with decreased crash rates and hours-of-service violations.”

The underride bill also would require DOT to publish data chronicling cases of truck-related underride crashes and make the information publicly available online. DOT also would be required to establish a panel consisting of manufacturers, engineers, safety advocates, public health or injury-prevention professionals, and two relatives of victims of underride crashes. The panel would be required to present Congress with an annual report with recommendations.