Truck underride accidents are one of the most dangerous types of truck accidents. A truck underride accident most commonly occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with the rear end of a semi-trailer. The hood of the passenger vehicle is usually lower than the end of the trailer. This causes the hood to slide under the trailer, leaving only the windshield in between passengers and the back of the trailer. According to the National Traffic Highway Safety Administration, more than 400 people are killed and 5,000 people are injured each year in truck underride accidents.
To prevent vehicles from sliding under the truck during a rear-end collision, federal safety regulations require trucks to have underride barriers. Underride barriers are long pieces of steel located at the back end of semi-truck trailers. However, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety has found that underride barriers often fail.
Researchers for the IIHS found that some underride barriers failed during crash tests conducted at the modest speed of 35 mph. Adrian Lund, President of the IIHS, said that it would actually be safer for a vehicle to drive directly into a brick wall than to hit the back of a semi-truck that has a weak underride guard.
Even members of the trucking industry recognize the need for improving truck underride guards. Bill Graves, the President and CEO of American Trucking Associations, agrees with the IIHS and believes that more can be done to prevent these often fatal accidents. Graves stated that, although the federal safety requirements may have been adequate at the time of their creation, it is now time to reevaluate those specifications.
The National Traffic Highway Safety Administration has said that it is aware of the problem, but the agency has not committed to developing new regulations on underride barriers in the near future.
Source: WRAL.com, "Auto insurers request stronger underride regulations," 3/1/2011