Report shows improvement in underride safety

INDIANAPOLIS - The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) released a report Thursday showing improvements in underride guard safety adopted by trailer manufacturers – progress they say will save lives, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reported.

Underride guards are the metal barriers on the back of most large trucks designed to keep drivers from sliding underneath during a crash.

A three-month investigation by the Call 6 Investigators revealed federal standards for underride guards may not be enough to keep motorists safe.

Video released Thursday by IIHS show 35 mph crash tests involving underride guards manufactured by Vanguard, which is based in Monon, Ind.

Vanguard’s earlier models failed IIHS 50 percent overlap tests despite complying with U.S. Canadian regulations, and crash test video shows the Chevrolet Malibu sliding underneath.

However, the new 2015 guard stopped the oncoming Malibu, preserving survival space for the test dummy in the driver’s seat and preventing the dummy’s head from hitting the rear of the trailer.

“When that happens, injury measures taken from the dummy almost always indicate certain death for a person in a real crash,” read the IIHS report.

Vanguard president Charlie Mudd told Kenney the 2015 trailer is a prototype, but the company hopes to make it a standard offering.

“We’re all for improving safety,” said Mudd.

The test is part of an IIHS research program to spur better underride guards that won’t buckle or break away when a truck trailer gets rear-ended by another vehicle.

Underride crashes are a recurring problem in Indiana, with many drivers crashing into the backs of semi-trucks and dying immediately on scene.

IIHS crash tests have previously demonstrated that underride guards need to be stronger than current U.S. safety standards.

According to IIHS, there are 8 major manufacturers of trailers, and all of them now pass the IIHS 50% overlap test as well as the full-width test.  

“The next step is to get improvement on the 30% overlap crash configuration,” said Russ Rader, spokesperson for IIHS. “Only one manufacturer passed the 30% overlap test in our 2013 round of crash tests – a Canadian manufacturer called Manac.”

Manufacturers are taking action in advance of federal rulemaking that could toughen regulations on underride guards.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has initiated a rulemaking process to evaluate options for enhancing the safety of rear impact guards on big trucks.

The decision by NHTSA comes in response to a petition from Marianne Karth, who lost two daughters in an underride crash, and the Truck Safety Coalition.

The Truck Safety Coalition released a statement Thursday praising the industry for making safety improvements.

“I am glad that advances are being made by the industry. Having advocated for better underride guards for over thirty years, I can personally testify that it takes far too long to produce a requirement for lifesaving safety improvements,” said Jennifer Tierney, Board Member for Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), Truck Safety Coalition (TSC) North Carolina Volunteer Coordinator, and Member, FMCSA, Motor Carrier Safety Advisory Committee (MCSAC), after losing her father in an underride crash.

During 2011, large truck rear impacts comprised 19 percent of the fatal two-vehicle collisions between large trucks and passenger vehicles, according to the Truck Safety Coalition.

Marianne Karth told Kenney improvements won’t bring back her daughters, but it will hopefully save lives.

“It’s going to be a long process, and this is just the first hurdle,” said Karth. “But it’s a significant hurdle.”

Karth contacted the Call 6 Investigators after researching and finding Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney's story on the issue .

“Right now it’s safer to hit a brick wall than to run into the back of a truck,” said Karth. “(The federal government) seems to be taking this very seriously.”

Karth was driving on Interstate 20 in Georgia with three of her children when police say a truck hit them, spinning their car backward and pushing it underneath a semi-truck.

Karth's daughters AnnaLeah, 17, and Mary, 13, were both killed.

In 2011, 260 people were killed when they crashed into the rears of trucks, according to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, which has been pushing the federal government to adopt tougher standards for underride guards.

Print this article Back to Top