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Truck accidents: truck rear guards are often inadequate

A common but little known type of accident involving tractor-trailer trucks in Virginia is the underride collision, in which an automobile either collides with or is shoved into the rear end of the trailer. In these accidents, the occupants of the car suffer death or serious injuries when they are forced against the frame of the trailer. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has adopted regulations that are intended to require adequate rear-end trailer shields to guard against such truck accidents, but the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has recently released findings questioning the adequacy of existing regulations and their enforcement.

The IIHS said that rear guards are either inadequate as installed or are poorly repaired, thereby impairing their function. Rust in the parts that are intended to provide the underride shield is a frequent defect. One study found holes resulting from rust that penetrated the entire piece of metal. Other tests have shown that existing rear shields fail to prevent underride accidents, even at speeds well below highway speeds. The IIHS also points out that many trucks have no rear guards and that existing rear guards can be approved without going through actual crash tests.

The IIHS petitioned the NHTSA for more stringent rules regarding rear guards, but the NHTSA has moved slowly. Experts point out, however, the existing stationary pressure point tests do not adequately simulate the actual dynamic forces generated in an underride collision.

Supporters of stronger rules say that sturdier rear guards would save lives and perhaps eliminate all deaths from underride accidents. However, immediate enactment of such regulations does not appear likely, at least as of right now.

Source: WUSA9, "Truck trailer rear guard rules have huge holes, safety experts say," Eric Flack, July 20, 2017

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