Truck accidents, in general, are scary; however, one of the most terrifying truck crashes involves an underride accident. An underride accident happens when a passenger vehicle slides underneath a tractor-trailer truck. These types of accidents are often fatal, regardless of the speed of the vehicles.
To avoid these types of Oklahoma City truck accidents from happening, there is a type of barrier known as a rear impact guard that can prevent a car from sliding underneath the trailer. Although many commercial trucks currently have rear impact guards, until this year, they have not been properly inspected by the trucking industry. However, after December, rear impact guards will be included all annual commercial truck inspections.
New federal regulations for rear impact guards for all commercial trucks
Going into effect December 9 of this year, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) will require all annual commercial truck inspections to include rear impact guards. The regulation follows the recommendations suggested by the United States Government Accountability Officer in 2019.
The FMCSA reported that rear impact guards have not been included on the list of inspection items, despite the fact that the use of rear impact guards has been a federal regulation for commercial trucks for the past 65 years. This is a dangerous oversight committed by the trucking industry, as a truck could pass inspection with a damaged rear impact guard.
Why does the strength of an underride guard matter?
Although rear impact guards are required for all commercial trucks, many are too unstable or weak to actually endure the impact of a collision. As News 4 explains, underride guards can crush on impact and break down from just a slight impact of a collision. In some cases, the underride guards can collapse and bend towards the back of the truck. The weak nature of some underride guards essentially makes them ineffective in protecting the driver or passengers in the other vehicle.
How will the new federal regulations impact the trucking industry?
The FMCSA believes that the new regulation will not have any significant effects on the trucking industry. This belief stems from the fact that inspections of rear guards in the past are conducted voluntarily. While reviewing comments filed in the rulemaking over the past year, the agency noted that trucking companies are less concerned with the current rear impact guard inspections, and more concerned about potential regulations in the future with front and side underride guard requirements. The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association stated that the rear impact guards are a crucial piece of safety equipment, while the same cannot be said for front and side underride guards.
Why aren’t front and side underride guards mandatory on trucks?
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has consistently come to the realization that federal mandates for front and side underride guards on commercial trucks would be expensive and impractical. The organization realized that the impractical nature of the mandates would outweigh any potential safety benefits the mandates would bring.
The organization believes that any proposal for mandated side underrides would ignore the economic, safety, and operational concerns that industry stakeholders would raise. The NHTSA is not the only organization that opposes federal mandates for side underride guards. The Truckload Carriers Association also stated that should a new requirement for side underride guards be mandated, it would be the largest unfunded mandate ever imposed on the trucking industry.
In addition to the increase of cost, one of the main reasons why the trucking industry opposes the federal mandate of front and side underride guards is due to the weight of the guards and how the additional weight would lead to an increase in the cost of a truck. The addition of a front or side underride guard would add an additional 10,000 pounds to the commercial truck. Further, to date, there is no evidence to prove that front or side underride guards are effective in crash tests.
Why should the federal mandates for front and side underride guard requirements be considered?
Although the trucking industry opposes the use of federal mandates for front and side underride guards, the truth of the matter is that these types of trucking accidents happen. News4 reports that according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, 600 people who were killed by side and rear underride accidents in 2018.
Of those 600 people, 280 were killed from side underride accidents. Side underride accidents happen when a truck driver is in the process of making a U-turn or crossing a street. These types of accidents are also likely to happen during the nighttime. Having the additional barriers around a commercial truck can help reduce the severity of a side or rear underride accident.
Does the new infrastructure bill address front and side underride guard mandates?
The recently passed infrastructure bill included underride guard requirements for the trucking industry. In addition to requirements for rear impact guards, the legislation also requires the Secretary of Transportation to conduct additional research for the effectiveness of side underride guards. An advisory committee will also be created to provide additional advice and recommendations for safety regulations regarding underride accidents and fatalities.
Due to the size and weight of commercial trucks, tractor-trailer accidents often cause significant damages, including serious injuries and temporary or permanent disabilities. At Cunningham & Mears, we work hard to get you full and fair compensation for all your injuries and harm. Our skilled Oklahoma City truck accident attorneys can investigate the accident, identify what caused the crash, and hold the responsible party accountable for your damages. To learn more about our services, reach out through our contact form, or call (405) 232-1212 today for a free initial consultation.
Marcus P. Mears is a founding partner of Cunningham & Mears. Mr. Mears is committed to helping Oklahoma’s injured victims in the areas of injury law and insurance litigation. Mr. Mears was selected to the Million Dollar Advocates Forum for his work as lead counsel in multiple seven figure injury cases. Learn More