Will it happen this time? Perhaps. For years, U.S. lawmakers have struggled with whether to require trucking companies and truck owners to install underride guards on the sides and fronts of those monstrous vehicles and their trailers. Such a move potentially could save hundreds of lives annually by preventing underride accidents in which a smaller motor vehicle slides underneath the large truck, leading to catastrophic injury and death.
Congress, sometimes, has bowed to critics within the trucking industry. However, this time, it may be different. In early March, legislation with bipartisan support was introduced on Capitol Hill to address such safety matters in trucking accidents. This marks the third time that the Stop Underrides Act has been before in Congress, and safety advocates hope this time it will stick.
Hundreds die each year
On March 4, Sens. and bill co-sponsors Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL) re-introduced the legislation. If passed, the law would require trucks to have steel-barred underride guards, which represent an effective way to prevent injury when another vehicle slides underneath it.
Currently, underride guards are required on the rear of large trucks and trailers, but not the sides or the front. However, the bill does address improving certain safety standards for rear guards.
The nonprofit Insurance Institute of Highway Safety (IIHS) declared that more than 850 people died in vehicle collisions with the side or rear of a big-rig truck in 2019. (Previous reports noted that roughly 200 people died annually in underride accidents.) The IIHS also found in 2012 that underride guards installed on the side of large trucks likely reduced injury risk by 75% in such collisions.
Catastrophic injuries and wrongful death scenarios often are the result of an underride accident. This safety issue is a critical one and must be revisited time and time again until U.S. lawmakers understand the consequences related to these horrific accidents.