Defect petition alleges tractor-trailer side underride guards are needed, but no federal laws exist.

Posted in Investigations

Side Underride Guards Should Be Investigated, Alleges Petition
Defect petition alleges tractor-trailer side underride guards are needed, but no federal laws exist.

— The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has been petitioned to investigate the lack of semi-trailer side underride guards used to prevent vehicles from traveling under the trailers.

An estimated 4 million vehicles and trailers are involved in the defect petition, although it's yet to be seen what NHTSA may be able to offer.

"Currently, there is no Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard (FMVSS) which requires side underride guards on semitrailers." — NHTSA

Auto safety organizations have tried to convince lawmakers to pass standards that require side underride guards due to the number of deaths and injuries from collisions with semi-trailers.

According to the petition to investigate, at least 500 deaths and 5,000 injuries occur each year from vehicles that crash into trucks and trailers without side underride guards.

Federal law requires a truck or trailer to be equipped with a rear guard to prevent vehicles from traveling under the trailers and decapitating vehicle occupants. But side underride guards are not mandated by the U.S. and attempts to pass laws have so far come up short.

In 2017, the Stop Underrides Act of 2017 was introduced by Senators Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) to require underride guards on the sides, front and rear of "all trailers, semi-trailers, and single unit trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds."

The bill was read twice and referred to the Committee on Commerce, Science, and Transportation where it died.

The defect petition says side underride guard technology is available and has been well-studied to show the benefits of the guards.

Although rear guards are required by law, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) began testing guards in 2017 after determining 427 people were killed in vehicles that slammed into the backs of tractor-trailers in 2015.

IIHS says rear guards can break even in slow-speed crashes, so the safety organization created the TOUGHGUARD award for tractor-trailer manufacturers that offer the best rear underride guards.

No single trailer manufacturer or equipment supplier was named in the NHTSA defect petition, but the agency says it will evaluate the claims and determine if a federal investigation should be opened. will update our website with NHTSA's decision.

IIHS Rear Underride Guard Test Video


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