Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

Advocates’ Statement on Need for Strong Truck Side Underride Guards

  • May 10, 2017
150 150 Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 10, 2017

Contact: Allison Kennedy, 202-408-1711, akennedy@saferoads.org

STATEMENT OF JACKIE GILLAN, PRESIDENT OF ADVOCATES FOR HIGHWAY AND AUTO SAFETY, ON THE NEED FOR STRONG SIDE UNDERRIDE GUARDS ON SEMITRAILER TRUCKS

New Crash Tests Provide Real-World Evidence that Guards Will Save Lives and Prevent Injuries

It is Time for a Side Guard Requirement to Stop the Horrific Deaths and Injuries to Car Occupants When a Vehicle Slides Under a Truck in a Crash

Preventing cars from sliding underneath the side of semitrailer trucks in collisions has been a top priority of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) for years, and for good reason.  In 2015, twenty percent (301 of the 1,542) of passenger vehicle occupants killed in two-vehicle crashes with a tractor-trailer died when their vehicles struck the side of a tractor-trailer. Today, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released the results of two critically important crash tests which underscored the need for a strong federal requirement for side underride guards on semitrailer trucks.  The test demonstrated that when cars are stopped from going underneath the trailer, the airbags and safety belt systems properly restrain the car occupants. These are crucial safety protections because frequently in side underride crashes, the front seat occupants are killed when the vehicle goes under a truck and shears off the top of the vehicle.  The side underride technology, which can be also be added as retrofits to existing trailers, would prevent cars from going under the sides of trailers in a collision and significantly mitigate these horrific crashes.

Annual truck crash fatalities are equivalent to a major airplane crash every other week of the year.  Yet, some of the most important and lifesaving technologies to improve truck safety have been ignored or delayed. Requiring side underride guards on semitrailers is one of those practical and commonsense solutions.  In 2015, 4,067 people were killed in crashes involving large trucks.  This is an increase of more than 4 percent from the previous year and a 20 percent increase from 2009.  This is also the highest fatality number since 2008.  Additionally, early release data from 2015 shows that 116,000 people were injured in crashes involving large trucks – a 57 percent increase since 2009.  Moreover, the cost to society from crashes involving commercial motor vehicles was estimated to be $112 billion in 2014, the most recent year for which this figure is available.

These grim statistics are more than just numbers.  Last week, more than 60 families whose loved ones have been killed or seriously injured in a preventable truck traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby their Members of Congress, as well as senior officials at the U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT).  Advocates and the families urged action on the following overdue safety advances, among others:

  • Mandating side underride guards for which there is currently no federal requirement;
  • Improving rear underride guards because the current standard issued nearly 20 years ago in 1998 is weak and ineffective;
  • Opposing the repeal of current federal and state laws to allow bigger, heavier and longer trucks to be on the roads with motorists;
  • Issuing a rule on speed limiters that has been languishing at U.S. DOT since 2003 when a petition for rulemaking was submitted to U.S. DOT.  Speed limiters will curb crashes involving speeding commercial vehicles which contribute to, on average, over 1,000 deaths annually; and,
  • Immediately commencing a rulemaking on automatic emergency braking (AEB) for trucks and buses to prevent or mitigate rear end crashes. According to U.S. DOT estimates, requiring AEB on commercial motor vehicles could save 70 lives and prevent nearly 3,500 serious injuries each year.

Before today is over 10 people will die and more than 300 people will be injured in truck crashes.  The current state of truck safety in this country is deplorable.  We urge federal lawmakers and government officials to take action to address the unfinished truck safety agenda and save lives.

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