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IIHS Petitions Feds For Better Underride Guards On Big Rigs

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2010 Chevrolet Malibu - IIHS rear impact with semi-trailer, severe underride

2010 Chevrolet Malibu - IIHS rear impact with semi-trailer, severe underride

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2010 Chevrolet Malibu - IIHS rear impact with semi-trailer, NO underride

2010 Chevrolet Malibu - IIHS rear impact with semi-trailer, NO underride

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2010 Chevrolet Malibu - IIHS rear impact with semi-trailer, severe underride

2010 Chevrolet Malibu - IIHS rear impact with semi-trailer, severe underride

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When cars rear-end semi tractor-trailers—on an icy road, for instance, where traffic ahead is stopped—the consequences can be quite deadly.

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), that's because the underride guards—those cheap-looking bars that hand below the load floor at the back of the trailers—often fail in crashes and allow the vehicle to keep going under the trailer.

And when those underride guards fail, death (even by decapitation) or serious injury is significantly more likely, since typically the upper part of the cabin crushes.

Just in 2009, 70 percent of the 3,163 who died in all crashes involving large trucks were the occupants of cars or other passenger vehicles, the IIHS says; and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) estimates that there are 5,000 injuries and about 423 deaths annually due to cars striking trucks from the back.

Furthermore, the Institute looked at 1,000 real-world crashes in 2001 through 2003 and found that of the 115 involving a car striking the back of a large truck or semi-trailer, 28 involved an occupant death, and 23 of those involved catastrophic underride—while only 25 didn't involve underride.

The IIHS proved—with its own recent tests—that while current Canadian standards are stronger than those in the U.S., with either standard the guards can fail in a collision. The issue? Under current certification standards, the trailer and guard system aren't ever evaluated together. There are also types of trucks that remain exempt altogether, the IIHS says, emphasizing that it's up to NHTSA to make some changes based on a petition the Institute is filing.

"Hitting the back of a large truck is a game changer," said Institute president Adrian Lund, in a release. "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."

[IIHS]

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Comments (7)
  1. My biggest fear for over 25 years has been just that. Rear ending a semi or worst a large trash tractor with its exposed pointed rails in the back with no protection whats so ever... Get this law passed ASAP! it is way over due...
     
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  2. It doesn't help that the front end of cars have been getting progressively lower for better fuel efficiency/to improve aerodynamics.
     
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  3. We have been complaining about this since 1980. Europe and Japan have tougher anti-underride requirements, which include lighter protection against pedestrians falling under the side of a passing truck or trailer. The trucking lobby is powerful. Added weight and cost is a no-no!
     
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  4. The underride guard is also known as a DOT bumper, or a Mansfield bar. The Mansfield bar name comes from a highly publicized accident involving none other than 50's icon Jayne Mansfield, in which her small car rear-ended a large truck, killing three of the six passengers including Jayne Mansfield. This took place on June 29th, 1967 – before The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration required underride guards on semi-trailers – and the car passed under the truck just high enough that Jayne Mansfield's head impacted the rear of the trailer. Popular rumor for quite some time was that she was decapitated, but in reality only a portion of her skull was severed.
     
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  5. @Bill, Thanks for the backgrounder!
     
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  6. Those rails that hang on the back of trailers have been there since the D.O.T. enforced the law. The problem isn't the trailer but the ASSHOLES that drive to dam close to the trailer!!!!!! The so-called drivers on the road today have no common sense, I've seen it too many times that the driver of a car thinks the truck can stop as fast as the car and guess what there WRONG!!!!! We don't need a new law just smarter drivers. Give the truck a brake and give him room.
     
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  7. Those rails that hang on the back of trailers have been there since the D.O.T. enforced the law. The problem isn't the trailer but the ASSHOLES that drive to dam close to the trailer!!!!!! The so-called drivers on the road today have no common sense, I've seen it too many times that the driver of a car thinks the truck can stop as fast as the car and guess what there WRONG!!!!! We don't need a new law just smarter drivers. Give the truck a brake and give him room.
     
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