Truck underride crashes are devastating for small vehicles involved in 18-wheeler accidents. Underride crashes occur when a smaller vehicle slides under a large truck. In many instances, the passenger cabin of the smaller vehicle is crushed by the truck’s tractor-trailer. These accidents frequently happen at the rear of a truck, but they occasionally happen after a car slides under a truck’s trailer from the side. In any case, these accidents are usually fatal. They are also usually preventable.
Though the Department of Transportation requires that all trucks have a rear safety bar, also called an underride guard, there are no requirements for the inspection of these bars. Additionally, DOT does not require truck operators to install underride guards on the sides of their vehicles. A recent report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that the safety standards for underride bars need significant improvement.
Underride Crashes in the U.S.
According to the report, there were about 219 fatalities from underride crashes between 2008 and 2017. The GAO estimates that the actual number is higher, but regulators don't enforce proper reporting standards for this type of accident. For example, police officers do not have a standard way of referring to underride accidents, so nearly every state has a different way of reporting underride accidents. As a result, the actual number of deaths from these accidents is unknown.
What the GEO Underride Accident Report Found
This report confirmed what truck safety advocates have stressed for years about truck accident prevention requirements: underride fatalities are underreported, and the nation does not have adequate regulations to prevent them. However, the report did find that some safety improvements for underride crash prevention laws are developing through various agencies. Truck safety advocates are requesting that legislators examine this report and expedite reforms before these accidents claim even more lives.
The Truck Safety Coalition hopes that this GAO report spurs the passing of the Stop Underrides Act, a bill which has been on the Senate floor since 2017. This bill would require DOT to issue final rules for the installation of rear underride guards which meet safety standards. It also requires trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds to install front and side underride guards.
“If anything, the GAO report steels our resolve to continue our work to ensure that all truck crashes are accurately captured and coded to identify solutions moving forward,” said Truck Safety Coalition Executive Director Harry Adler.