Are Guard Rails The Answer To Trucking-Related Accident Injuries?

There’s a new debate happening between trucking industry groups and trucking safety advocates. This time it has to do with tractor-trailers equipped with side guard rails, which auto safety groups say mitigate serious crashes when a passenger vehicle collides with a tractor or trailer.

On the other side, the trucking industry asserts that there is already technology in place to prevent such situations and that resources can be better used elsewhere.

As it stands, federal law requires that if you are operating a heavy-duty Class 8 big rig, you’ve got to have rear underride guards already installed. These are designed to prevent passenger cars from winding up beneath the truck in the event of an accident.

Citing passenger death figures from 2015, safety groups reported that 301 passenger occupants were killed when they struck the side of a trailer in the car they were riding in. But are guard rails the answer, or are groups trying to find an answer merely for the sake of doing so? Obviously, 301 deaths is a terrible number, but a measured approach must be taken.

Testing Current Technologies

The good news is that there are plenty of options to choose from where this type of equipment is concerned. In a recent test using a device consisting of a steel rail covered with fiberglass mounted onto the trailer resulted in a dummy surviving impact at 35 miles per hour in a mid-size car.

Without the guard rail? The crash sheared off the roof of the vehicle and wound up wedged underneath the trailer. This type of scenario would most-certainly have been fatal had it been a real-life crash.

While some guard rails consist of steel beams with fiberglass overlays, others offer inflatable options tied to sensors designed to inflate when a crash seems imminent. Still, the trucking industry itself continues to have an internal conversation regarding the merit of these devices.

According to the American Trucking Associations, there hasn’t yet been any industry-wide consensus regarding guard rails because there are other aspects to consider when installing the technology, from weight to aerodynamic flow, never mind any other add-ons that may be presently installed.

Avoiding Crashes to Begin With

The most ideal scenario would be to employ the guard rails in situations where the cost and application merits it, but in the meantime support industry-wide safety efforts.

From automatic braking systems to forward-collision alerts, there are a number of both budding and mature technologies to choose from.  These technologies are designed to prevent a passenger car from ever having to worry about whether a guard rail is installed or not.

Of course, all crashes are tragedies, and here at the Trucking Safety Blog, we would never want to insinuate that an applicable safety technology NOT be installed for the purpose of financial efficiency, however some methods may be better for some fleets to invest in than others.

While guard rails are great at preventing vehicles from sliding under the trailer, the overarching goal should always be to prevent the crash in the first place.

Still, is your fleet considering side guards? Always remember that there are specific federal regulations that need to be adhered to when installing such equipment.

While the equipment OEM, dealer or shop it is being installed at should be able to properly handle installation instructions and verify the correct dimensions for the guard rail’s application, follow this link to get more information on how guard rails work, the different types and how they can be implemented, both in the United States or in other markets across the world.