Adding side-guard rails to semi-trailer trucks could save hundreds of lives

We have seen some terrible semi-truck crashes and now there is a push to add side guard rails to those trailers to save lives.

Two years ago in Maryland along Route 22 in Prince George’s County, a vehicle trapped underneath a semi-truck trailer. Firefighters had to rescue the driver.

This past October in Urbana, Maryland along I-270 a driver was killed after their car crashes into the rear end of a tractor-trailer on in Frederick County.

Both accidents involved a semi-truck trailer. The federal government currently requires all semi-trailers to have rear underride guards that are designed to prevent a car from going under a trailer in a crash. It doesn’t require trailers to have side guard rails.

David Zuby, the Chief Research Officer with the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety says “Several hundred people a year die from underside crashes with trucks.”

Zuby believes many of these side underride crashes can be prevented.

“What our research has shown is, it’s possible by fitting trucks with stronger guards, adds Zuby.”

IIHS tested two aftermarket side guards. One called AngelWing and the other is a fiberglass side skirt intended to improve aerodynamics but not to prevent underride crashes.

The AngelWing bent but didn’t allow the car to go underneath.

“They are strong enough to prevent the vehicle from going under the trailer,” says Zuby.

The fiberglass side skirt didn’t stop the car from going under the trailer.

Test results show only 28 percent of a 53-foot trailer’s length would be protected from side underride crashes with no guards but if you add side guards a driver’s protection increases to 62 percent.

Right now Congress is considering making side guard rails mandatory. The Stop Underrides Act of 2017 would require underride guard rails to be placed on the sides of trailers and on the front of trucks.