A new study, discussed below, by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety shows that rear truck underride guards are inadequate, and collisions like the one shown above should never have the catastrophic damages that they so often do in the US.
Now there are many reasons that cars hit tractor trailers in the rear, sometimes it is the cars fault, sometimes it is the trucks fault. I have handled many of these cases when it has been determined that it has been the trucks fault. However the third party involved in these collisions, the 800 pound gorilla that is often overlooked by lawyers not familiar with trucking cases, is the trailer manufacturer. Why should they be involved? Because trailer manufacturer’s have know since at least the 1970’s (that I personally know of) how to decrease the severity of these collisions by making solid underride guards, at minimal cost and expense, and have done nothing about it.
So what did the IIHS report of March 1, 2011 (link to the study here), find? At a 35 MPH collision the guards would "buckle or break away from their trailers – with deadly consequences [for the occupants of cars]." Europe and Canada have stronger standards that protect the occupants of the car from passenger compartment intrusion.
Thus a car in a 35mph impact with a trailer with a weak underride guard looks like this:
A car in a 35mph impact with a strong underride guard looks like this:
Since industry steadfastly refuses to act I can only hope that the government will respond favorably to IIHS’ s Petition for stronger underride guards.