Bill Aims to Reduce Deadly Trucking Accidents
Lawmakers from both sides of the aisle announced in December that they are working on a bill that aims to reduce deadly trucking accidents. The bill would require all tractor-trailers in the United States to be equipped with side underride guards. These guards offer protection for the occupants inside a passenger vehicle, when that vehicle crashes into the side of a large commercial truck and trailer, subsequently sliding under the trailer, and often shearing away the entire top of the passenger vehicle.
Rear Underride Guard Standards
Standards for underride guards on large tractor-trailers were established in 1996, in order to reduce the risk to those in passenger vehicles when they collide with a truck. At that time, “special purpose vehicles” were excluded from the standards, and it was found the stiff rear underride guard standards placed on large trucks were, at best, a safety compromise which failed to protect all sizes and weights of the current vehicles.
These rear underride guards were ultimately either too stiff for small vehicles, or simply not strong enough for larger vehicles. Energy-absorbing guards should be a part of the underride guard standards, particularly since the modern designs are fairly inexpensive and simple to implement. The new bill would not only require all tractor-trailers to be equipped with side underride guards, it would also require that the standards for rear-impact underride guards be bolstered as well.
Lawmakers Push Stop Underrides Act
Although several manufacturers of trailers have taken steps to increase the safety of their rear underride guards, many others will not do so until it becomes mandatory. The bill being introduced into the Senate by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio, and in the House by Representative Steve Cohen from Tennessee and Representative Mark DeSaulnier from California, is known as the Stop Underrides Act. Lawmakers pushing the Act believe many lives could be saved if underride guards were required on the sides of trailers and if safer underride bars were installed on the rear of trailers.
American Trucking Association Balks at Proposed Bill
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety released a study this year which concluded side underride guards would provide the same type of safety benefits as rear-mounted guards, reducing injury risk for those in passenger vehicles nearly 75 percent in side-trailer crashes. While the American Trucking Association believes side underride guards could lessen the number of fatalities, they are not yet on board with the proposed mandates. A spokesman for the ATA stated that side underride guards would add significant weight to the trailers, and would require “stiffer” trailers to avoid the frame rails on the trailers developing cracks.
ATA Would Prefer More Safety Technologies in Passenger Vehicles
In fact, as an alternative to the new side underride mandates, the ATA would rather see such safety technologies as forward collision warning systems and automatic emergency braking in passenger vehicles as a means of decreasing the number of passenger vehicle/truck collisions. If the bill passes, however, the rear and side underride guards which will then be required on tractor-trailers would only have to prevent a passenger vehicle traveling 35 mph from sliding under the trailer on impact.
Unfortunately, many truck/passenger vehicle collisions happen at higher speeds, where the underride bars would probably not be nearly as effective. If the bill is passed, the industry will have a one-year grace period before the underride guard mandate begins, although a phase-in period as long as three years may be a part of the final bill. In July, Senator Charles Schumer called for tighter underride guard regulations, after a fatal crash occurred on July 5, on Interstate 81. A large truck jackknifed when the truck driver attempted to avoid hitting a deer, ultimately costing four people their lives.
Contact Our Wisconsin Trucking Accident Lawyers Today
If you or a loved on has been injured in a truck accident, particularly one where there were no underride guards, or the underride bars were not up to safety standards, it could benefit your future to speak to an experienced Wisconsin truck accident attorney as quickly as possible after the accident. At Aiken & Scoptur, S.C., we are dedicated to getting clients the full compensation they deserve. We take all personal injury cases on contingency, so you will not pay us a fee unless we help you obtain money damages. To discuss your case with an experienced trial lawyer, call us at 414-914-2803 or contact us today. We represent clients throughout the state from offices in Wauwatosa and Wild Rose.