Congress is currently looking into laws that could change the face of truck accident occurrences. A bipartisan measure to require guards on truck trailers to prevent underride accidents is currently passing through the legislative branch. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 was introduced by members of both the Democratic and Republican parties.
Stop Underride Act of 2017
The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would require truck companies to fit underride guards on all sides of a truck. The act would, hopefully,decrease the number of underride accidents that occur every year due to the mandated addition of side and front guards. Lawmakers mandated that trucks carried back guards in 1953, but the new policy would force truck companies to reinforce the back guards with stronger materials. Therefore, the Stop Underrides Act would update back guard policies for the first time since 1998.
The Dangers of Underride Accidents
Congress is currently pushing this act through due to the dangers that underride accidents pose to motorists. Every year, hundreds of people die in commercial truck accidents—and underride accidents post the highest death per accident percentage of any truck accident.
Here are some truck accident-related fatality data from 2016:
- 295 fatalities resulted from vehicles hitting the sides of semis.
- 238 passengers died when their vehicle struck the rear of a truck.
- 915 people died in front collisions with trucks.
It is interesting to note that out of all the motorists who died in commercial truck-related incidents, the least amount of fatalities stemmed from vehicles that struck the back of trucks. Proponents of guards could argue that this low amount of fatalities is due to the already mandated rear guards that trucks must have. Will other guards have a similar effect? Researchers and test operators plan to find out.
Side Guards Are in Testing
In 2015, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) had published a proposal to increase the safety of rear-impact guards on all commercial trucking vehicles. Despite more than two years passing, the administration has yet to finalize the proposal. They are reportedly waiting to pass this proposal because Texas A&M Transportation Institute is currently researching the protection value of side underrides on trailers.
In a perfect world, the NHTSA would propose an increase in back guard safety and enact side guard requirements; however, truck companies are hesitant about changes that will cost extra money. For this reason, NHTSA is looking to pick the safer option as one change is more likely to be accepted by truck companies—and the administration ultimately wants to advocate for the safety measure that will save more lives. However, if the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 does pass as-is, truck companies may not have a choice in the matter.