An underride occurs when a passenger vehicle collides with the rear end or side of a truck, trailer or other large commercial vehicle that is not equipped with effective underride guards or bumpers. Without an underride rail, lower bumper or guard, the vehicle under rides the truck’s rear or side frame by traveling beneath the taller chassis of the larger vehicle. The impact between the heavy frame of a truck, whether in the rear or on the side is equally devastating to the occupants of the car or vehicle. The roof supports or roof pillars of the vehicle are not engineered to withstand the tremendous forces in a crash and collpase as a result of the wedge effect of the impact forces. This invasion into the vehicles passenger compartment is deadly one. It often causes severe head and upperbody trauma resulting in catastrophic injuries and death.
In January 1996, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued two new FMVSSs that are designed to reduce the number of injuries and fatalities resulting from the collision of passenger vehicles with the rear ends of heavy trailers and semitrailers. The first standard, FMVSS No. 223, “Rear Impact Guards,” specifies the performance requirements that rear impact guards must meet. The second standard, FMVSS No. 224, “Rear Impact Protection,” requires that most new trailers and semitrailers with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more be equipped with a rear impact guard that meets the requirements of FMVSS No. 223. The requirements of these FMVSSs became effective in January 1998.
NHTSA had been studying the issue of rear underride crashes for many years and first proposed solutions to the problem as early as 1981. The agency has taken two approaches to the problem. The first deals with increasing the conspicuity of large vehicles in an effort to prevent rear impact crashes. FMVSS No. 108, “Lamps, Reflective Devices and Associated Equipment,” requires retroreflective materials on the sides and rear of all trailers of 80 or more inches in width and with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more. That standard became effective in December 1993 and has proven to be very effective in reducing the incidence of rear and side impacts into trailers and semitrailers.
Even with new legislation, rear underrides are going to still occur due to the large number of older trailers, buses and other large scale commercial vehicles on the roads of the United States. As time goes by, the numbers will hopefully decrease as those older tractor trailer and other semi trailers are taken out of service and retired to the salvage yards. The newer trailers, floats, reefers, platform trailers and freight vans built by such companies as Great Dane, Allegheny, Fruehaulf, Lufkin, Stoughton, Trial King, Utilimaster, TrailMobile, Wabash, Dorsey and others have incorporated these new and common sense standards resulting in a safer and more crashworthy product. But much more needs to be done to impress upon many of the trailer makers to go beyond the minimum standards imposed by NHTSA.Additionally, more legislation needs to be written to force the semi trailer manufacturers to engineer trailers with side impact underride guards, boxes or barriers to prevent the needless and senseless death of so many.
Further, many underride accidents and deaths could be prevented if the federal and state authorities would simply enforce existing laws concerning the parking of large trucks, 18 wheelers, trailers and other vehicles along roadways, near intersections, under bridges and near commercial facilities. Ironically, our government spends billions of dollars a year to engineer and construct barricades, crash guards, guardrails, safer bridge pillar impact crush guards and to clear other obstructions that impose a hazard to the traveling public, but it doesn’t do enough to punish the truck drivers, their employers and even the commercial businesses along the roadways that encourage and condone the parking of these death traps near their businesses. Side and rear underide guards greatly increase ones chances of surviving a rear end collision or side impact crash accident with a truck or trailer, but preventing the crash in the first place is another often over looked component of these underride accidents.
If you or a family member was severely injured in a tractor-trailer underride accident, you should contact an attorney who can help you protect your legal rights. In such tractor trailer accident cases, the scene needs to be photographed, the vehicles inspected and photographed, all responsible parties identified and the insurance companies or other representatives put on notice. Additionally please keep in mind that there are time deadlines that must be adhered to in filing claims and lawsuits against the responsible entities. If such filing deadlines are passed or the statutes of limitation has expired, then your ability to bring a lawsuit may be forever lost. Contact an attorney to learn your rights. Call or e-mail us for a Free Confidential Consultation at 1-800-883-9858