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.

  • Kim

    Thanks for the informative post. Really good comment about the trailer manufacturers. It looks to me like your clients are lucky to have you.

  • Great post. Surely everyone would benefit from reading this article especially dealing with preventive measures to accidents due to car crash. Thanks for sharing.:)

  • Erin Shipp

    What about straight trucks? The under-ride regulations do not even cover these and yet the configuration is the same as a trailer, and the consequences are also the same.

  • Tex Arcana

    Yes, you’re right, look for a “60 Minutes” story on big rig bumpers, a solution to the problem (shock-absorbing underride bumpers, costing about $250 each in 1970’s dollars), and what eventually happened (trucking lobby managed to kill the law in congress).

    Eric is right as well; and we all forget lifted pickup trucks (especially the ones that insist on installing a huge trailer tow ball, usually with those rubber dangly bits), which are as dangerous–if not moreso–than the others.

    I thought there were laws on the books that required vehicle bumpers to be the same height off the road, and within the same range?? Why aren’t we demanding them to enforce these laws??