Will Congress Require Safety Side Guards On Large Trucks?

Will Congress Require Safety Side Guards On Large Trucks?

We share our roads and highways with large commercial trucks on a daily basis. These large commercial trucks have rear guards to protect passenger cars. If you rear-end an eighteen-wheeler, you are protected from going under the back of the truck. Why do large trucks not also have side guards? That’s a question safety advocates have long asked.

Commercial trucks can have a very high ground clearance. I’m sure you’ve been in the lane next to a large eighteen-wheeler. If you are in a small passenger car, you may even look over and think that your entire vehicle could go under the truck. That is the danger. In a side impact, a passenger car can slide under the body of the truck. That causes the truck body to crash through the car windows and into the passengers. A simple collision can become deadly. These under-ride crashes can cause horrible head and upper body injuries, including decapitation. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety estimated almost 300 car passengers were killed in side-impact collisions with a semi-truck in 2016.

We need to remember — Deadly side impacts are not limited to passenger cars. In urban areas, commercial trucks frequently share our roads with pedestrians and bicyclists. A Department of Transportation study also revealed a substantial number of death in side crashes involving both pedestrians and bicyclists.

Large commercial trucks share our roads with passenger cars, motorcyclists, bike riders and pedestrians. All are at risk of the heightened danger in a side-impact crash. How can side guards help? Truck side guards protect people by covering the space between a truck’s front and rear tires. While they don’t prevent an impact, they can prevent or lessen the force that carries the passenger car (or pedestrian, cyclist, etc.) under the truck. The devices can prevent the catastrophic harm of a side-impact.

Are side guards effective? Rear safety guards have been mandated on large trailers for decades. They work. In both the European Union and Japan, side guards have also been required safety equipment since the 1980s. In the United Kingdom, truck-related bicycle fatalities dropped 61% after side guards became mandatory. That’s a huge safety improvement! Pedestrian deaths dropped by 21%.

Highway safety professionals in the United States have long advocated for our country to adopt similar requirements. The National Transportation Safety Board has also formally recommended that U.S. trucks carry side safety guards.

This simple safety equipment saves lives. Yet, our government has failed to act. Why has our country failed to adopt important safety standards? The answer is simple — The trucking industry has lobbied against it. In the U.S., the trucking industry employs powerful lobbyists. Safety is not their primary concern. Some within the trucking industry have even argued mandatory side guards are too expensive despite a National Transportation Systems Center estimate that such guards cost less than $850 per truck.

Although the Federal government has failed to act, some of our largest cities have adopted side guards on their municipal fleets. Cities such as Portland, Boston and New York City, have worked to implement side safety guards to protect their citizens. Want more information? We encourage you to watch a NBC Today show investigative report on the issue:

Are new safety standards on the horizon? In December 2017, Senators Rubio and Gillibrand introduced the Stop Underrides Act. According to Senator Rubio:

With hundreds of Americans losing their lives due to these crashes every year, the Stop Underrides Act seeks to prevent these kind of deaths, make our roads safer, and spare more families the grief of losing a loved one by implementing underside guards on trucks across the nation.

A supporter of the proposed legislation who lost her father in an underride crash spoke from the heart about this danger. That supporter, Katie Strader, said:

Until the day my dad was killed, I had never spent much time considering what would happen if a vehicle passed under a tractor-trailer. Now it’s a daily struggle to stop my mind from imagining that horrific moment of impact and seeing the remains of the vehicle that held my Daddy.

.  .  .

There are thousands of families across the U.S. who had had their lives forever-changed because of an underride crash. Saving lives is not a partisan issue. Joint introduction by Senators Gillibrand and Rubio is evidence of this. Protecting our families on our roadways is not Republican or Democrat. It is an issue on which we all agree.

We live in a difficult time when our government too often focuses on something other than the safety and welfare of our citizens. Hopefully, Congress will act. Deadly underrides are easily preventable with simple safety equipment.


At the Blackwell Law Firm, we specialize in personal injury cases. We have frequently helped clients following a large commercial truck crash. These cases can present complex issues. If you have been injured by a commercial truck, you need experienced legal counsel who will work hard for you. If you have questions, give us a call. Consultations are always free and confidential.

Photo Credits (In order of appearance):
Photograph One:  Large commercial elevated truck with no side guards. Photo by Rennett Stowe (CC BY 2.0)
Photograph Two:  Large commercial elevated truck with bar side guards. Photo by Lloyd Alter (CC BY 2.0)
Photograph Three: Large commercial elevated truck with solid side guards. Photo by Lloyd Alter (CC BY 2.0)