According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) in Virginia, some of the worst accidents on the road can be prevented. In this case, the group refers specifically to rear underride accidents between a passenger vehicle and a tractor trailer.
Still, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has required rear guards on all tractor trailers, but is it enough?
The mandated rear guards should prevent passenger cars from sliding underneath trailers and potentially endangering the lives of those in the passenger vehicle.
According to the IIHS, the way the laws are written, rear guards may not be as effective as they should be. In their comment on the rule the IIHS said the safety system is in “desperate need of repair.”
According to David Zuby, one of the rear guard researchers at IIHS, there could potentially be a problem with “rust that goes through the thickness of these beams.” He cites that rust as a major cause for concern.
IIHS crash tests reports indicate that many rear guards on the market today might not do enough to stop fatal underride crashes. Even more troubling, testing shows that some of the most common models may fail even at speeds far below the posted highway limit.
Even those that do meet the requirement threshold may not cut it where underride speed is concerned. So, what’s the solution? And are insurance premiums rising as a result?
Stronger Rear Guards
Many have been calling for stronger rear guards, but getting to that point on the regulatory and manufacturing and design level has been more of a challenge. In 2015, NHTSA took a few steps in that direction, issuing a notice of proposed rule making regarding rear guards.
According to an IIHS petition, there was a “woeful lack of data” supporting the current safety standards governing rear underride protections.
In answer, the NHTSA undertook a study that acknowledged fatalities were still occurring in rear end collisions between passenger vehicles and tractor trailers. Still, a year-and-a-half later, there has been no move on the part of the agency to modify or strengthen rear guard regulations.
Still, there is much disagreement between industry players on the matter, with trucking industry lobbyists agreeing that nothing needs to be done yet.
The Industry View
The American Trucking Associations (ATA) said it supports the plan currently in place, designed to ensure US rear guards meet the standard currently used in Canada.
According to the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, nearly one-hundred percent of trailers being made today either equal or better the Canadian rear guard standard, which is why many trucking associations advocate staying the course.
Still, the IIHS has come out strongly against even the revised rules. They cite as an example that non-trailer trucks would still be allowed on roads without rear guards. Trucking companies would also be allowed to certify rear guards for approval without citing any crash tests as proof of their efficacy.
The current standard required that a trucking company put stationary pressure on various points of the rear guard to test it. IIHS objects that stationary pressure on the rear guard does not constitute a real-life scenario.
Still, NHTSA filed documents explaining why it was rejecting any change to the rear guard rule, saying that it was doing so because trucking companies would need to spend hundreds of millions of dollars to save only a handful of lives.
While some may say there is no price too high to be placed on someone’s life, economic indicators and revenue models always come into play when the supply chain is under discussion, even when it comes to preventing rear guard crashes – whether through new or strengthened regulations.