Accidents involving large trucks are often devastating, but some of the most tragic here in Kentucky are those where the smaller vehicle slides under the trailer. The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s crash test video of a midsize sedan in a collision with the side of a tractor-trailer shows the top of the car being sheared off, along with the headrests of the front seats. Because the front of the car never meets with resistance, none of the vehicle’s safety mechanisms such as the crumple zone and airbags are able to work.
When the same test is performed with a side underride guard attached to the bottom of the trailer, the front of the sedan hits the guard and comes to a stop before it reaches the dummy in the front seat. The impact is partially absorbed by the vehicle’s crumple zone, and the airbag reduces the effects of the collision even more.
With such obvious potential to save lives, it seems as if trucking companies would be lining up to have these guards installed. However, Transport Topics explains that many manufacturers and trucking companies see the life-saving potential of side underride guards in a much different light. In fact, they claim it will cost more lives to have these features added to tractor-trailers. How?
Their logic begins with a guard’s weight. Adding 800 pounds or so to a truck with a strict weight limit will lower the amount of cargo the truck can carry. Although that’s just 1 percent or so of the total allowed by federal regulation, the companies say it adds up quickly. As a result, they will need to put more trucks on the road, and that increases traffic and puts more lives on the line.
Perhaps the bottom line is that these guards will cost the companies money to install and maintain. Regardless, many industry experts believe the safety features will not be a common sight on the roadways unless lawmakers force the issue.