The Problem with Rear Guards on Commercial Trucks

Underride accidents have been in the news more often lately, as parents of younger victims, along with legislators, are pushing to pass a new proposed law. That law would require eighteen wheelers to have underride guards installed on the sides of their trailers, and to strengthen the already-required rear guards. These safety guards are supposed to prevent the catastrophic deaths and injuries that occur every year when passenger vehicles slide under trailers during collisions.

Underride truck accidents are unlikely to ever be fully preventable, but the demand that the guards be required may be futile. The existing rear guard equipment doesn’t appear to be as big a safety measure as many believe, and they’re preventing fewer truck accident deaths than expected.

Rear guards were a good first step, but they’re not enough

Rear underride guards are required under federal law, but they’re not a perfect fix, especially when a car hits a truck on an angle. Testing by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has shown that rear guards don’t always hold up at speeds as low as 35 mph. Some performance cars still need 100 feet to stop from a speed of 60 mph. Given that highway speeds far exceed that number, especially around Charlotte, it’s not likely that a rear crash is going to be below 35 mph even when the driver reacts instantly.

A Raleigh family lost two teenage daughters in 2013 during a truck accident that sent their vehicle sliding backwards under the back of another tractor trailer. The truck had rear guards, but they didn’t do their job. The problem stems from a 20-year-old rear guard design being easily compromised during a crash impact. The rear guards need to be overhauled to make them sturdier and effective.

Installation issues adding to the problem

In 2018, a Florida man was killed when his car hydroplaned and slammed into the back of a flat-bed truck at a stop light. The rear underride guard failed miserably and instead of the man’s car bouncing off the back of the truck as intended, it became lodged underneath. Headrests were sheared off by the end of the truck when it entered the cabin. In this case, the rear guard collapsed because it was improperly installed. A wrongful death lawsuit claims that using cheaper, lower quality bolts to secure the safety device compromised its ability to prevent the man’s death before the truck ever entered the roadway.

This accident prompted inspections of over 10,000 trucks on the roadway. The task force assigned to check underride guards found defects in 900 of them in just five days, including cracked, broken or missing rear guards.

Truck underride accidents always result in the worst outcome for victims. Often their families are the victims left to pick up the pieces and try to get justice for their loved ones who rarely survive these crashes.

If you or a family member has been injured or killed due to a trucking accident, the Charlotte personal injury attorneys at Warren & Kallianos, PLLC will seek the compensation that you may be entitled to receive. Our attorneys remain attuned to the latest updates in trucking legislation to provide our clients with experienced and skilled legal representation. To schedule your free, no obligation consultation in our Charlotte office, call 704-275-5593 or we invite you to reach out to us through our contact form.


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