Disappointment at Government Action Over Truck Underride Bars
We have written in the past about underride accidents and moves to prevent these types of incidents that can often be deadly for car drivers who end up under tractor trailers.
Recently, the Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) concluded a study related to these kinds of accidents and called on the Department of Transportation to make changes. Unfortunately, the government appears to have missed a chance to significantly strengthen these rules.
An underride bar is meant to prevent cars sliding under tractor trailers but if the bar is too weak, the driver of the smaller vehicle often pays the price with his or her life. These accidents are particularly deadly because car drivers have zero protection.
The Institute carried out tests and highlighted ways to improve these bars so as they don’t break or buckle in the event of an accident. The research led to some manufacturers bringing in stronger bars in Canada. The Institute also targeted federal agencies in the US.
Stronger Underride Bars Are Considered
In 2014, three years after the Institute originally petitioned federal regulators for tougher requirements and suggested specific improvements, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) initiated rulemaking to consider new standards for stronger underride guards on trailers single-unit straight trucks and semitrailers.
However, Torque News, a service that has been following this issue, reports NHTSA and the federal government have failed to make a sweeping change and are set to only make a minor improvement.
Tractor trailers are equipped with a set of angle-steel bars below the trailer to provide an impact-point for cars, but they are “mostly window dressing,” and the bars fold up in the case of a crash, reported Torque News.
The US is reported to be poised to follow Canada in adopting a slightly tougher standard for underride bars. IIHS states there are more effective ways to design the safety structure at the rear of trailers.
“We had hoped for a more a meaningful upgrade to the outdated standard for rear underride guards,” stated Adrian Lund, IIHS president. “As written, this proposal will have a minimal impact on safety. We urge NHTSA not to miss the opportunity to address a wider range of rear underride crashes.”
Marianne Karth, a mother from North Carolina, who lost two daughters in a 2013 truck crash has also petitioned NHTSA for more sturdy underride guards, as well as the Truck Safety Coalition, an Arlington, Virginia, group that lobbies for stronger regulations. Claims Journal reported that Karth and the group had met the Transportation Secretary to discuss the bar issue. The National Transportation Safety Board has also backed stronger guards after investigation truck crashes.
Given the considerable number or organizations that have been campaigning on this issue, it’s disappointing that the government appears to be poised to take the easy way out when it could do more.