Lawmakers from the U.S. Senate and U.S. House of Representatives have introduced bills that would require underride guards on the sides and front of large trucks, and would update what they say are outdated standards for underride guards on the back of trucks.
The bills also would ensure that annual inspections for all large trucks include underride guards, and would require the Department of Transportation to review underride standards every five years to evaluate the need for changes in response to advancements in technology.
The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would apply to trailers, semi-trailers and single-unit trucks with a gross vehicle weight rating of more than 10,000 pounds.
U.S. Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Marco Rubio, R-Fla., introduced the bill in the Senate. U.S. Reps. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., and Mark DeSaulnier, D-Calif., introduced the bill in the House.
An “underride crash” is when a car slides under the body of a large truck such as a semi-trailer during an accident. When these accidents happen, a car’s safety features are not able to protect passengers because most of the car slides under the trailer, and the truck crashes straight through the windows and into the passengers, according to the lawmakers.
The passengers in the car often suffer severe head and neck injuries – including decapitation – on impact with the truck. The accidents often are fatal, even at low speeds.
Studies and pilot programs show that a simple barrier attached to the lower area of a truck – called an underride guard – would help prevent a car from sliding underneath a truck in an accident. Under current federal law, underride guards are not required to be on the sides or front of trucks. Underride guards are required for the back of a truck, but the standards are outdated, according to the lawmakers who introduced the bills.
“With so many unpredictable accidents on the road, underride guards are an easy solution for protecting people and preventing them from dying when a car collides with a truck,” Gillibrand said. “This bipartisan legislation would save lives, and we should pass it as quickly as possible to keep Americans safe while they’re driving, whether they’re heading to see family and friends for the holidays or driving to work on their morning commute. I urge all of my colleagues to join me and Sen. Rubio on this bipartisan bill.”
The Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety and the National Safety Council have endorsed the bill.
“Florida is one of the states with the highest number of reported fatalities due to underride collisions,” Rubio said. “With hundreds of Americans losing their lives due to these crashes every year, the Stop Underrides Act seeks to prevent these kind of deaths, make our roads safer, and spare more families the grief of losing a loved one by implementing underride guards on trucks across the nation. I ask my colleagues in Congress to join me in advancing efforts to save hundreds of lives across the country.”