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.

Regulations tightened for commercial drivers

Lighter vehicles are now subject to the province’s winter driving regulations for commercial vehicles.


The ministry of transportation introduced new regulations for commercial drivers, requiring more vehicles to chain up in winter conditions or face escalating fines.

Previous regulations only required vehicles over 27,000 kilograms to carry and use traction devices, with only one wheel needing chains during winter conditions and mandatory chain-ups. The new, more all-encompassing enhancements clarify requirements for all commercial vehicles over 5,000 kilograms.

  • Vehicles less than 11,794 kilograms — like buses or five-ton trucks — must use chains on a minimum of two tires and can use steel chains, cable chains, automatic chains, socks or wheel sanders, if not equipped with winter tires.
  • Vehicles 11,794 kilograms or more must use steel chains, and the number of tires needing chains ranges from a minimum of two tires for vehicles without a trailer, to six tires on some larger and more-demanding configurations.

“Last winter, 33 of 35 extended closures on the Coquihalla involved commercial vehicles, and in most cases, this was due to truck drivers either poorly installing chains or not using them at all,” said transport minister Claire Trevena in a news release. “While most drivers do chain up during winter weather, these new regulations and the stricter fines that will follow will improve safety and hopefully reduce the number of closures.”

Commercial vehicle safety and enforcement officers will spend the next few months providing information and education to commercial drivers before stricter fines are implemented later this winter. The previous fine for not carrying chains or not installing them when required was $121, but the new fines are still to be determined, the release went on to state.

“The BC Trucking Association (BCTA) supports government’s enhancements to commercial chain-up requirements, including the stiffer fines for those not compliant,” said Dave Earle, president, and CEO of the BCTA. “Safety of our drivers and all road users is our first priority.”