The average driver feels a bit intimidated when encountering a semi-truck in traffic. The large, unwieldy vehicles make wide turns and take quite some time to slow to a complete stop. They can also cause severe damage to smaller vehicles and catastrophic injuries to their occupants should a collision occur.
Semi-truck collisions are responsible for hundreds of deaths every year and many other severe injuries. The most tragic fact about such crashes is that most transportation companies could protect the public better if they invested a bit more in the safety equipment they use for their vehicles.
The importance of underride guards
Semi-trucks aren’t just heavier and harder to manage than the average passenger vehicle. They are also substantially taller than passenger vehicles. When a smaller vehicle strikes a commercial truck, there is a real risk of the smaller vehicle passing under the commercial truck’s trailer. Such crashes often leave the small vehicle destroyed and can lead to fatal injuries.
Currently, the federal government mandates rear underride guards. These metal bars hang from the back of a trailer and will stop a vehicle from going completely under the trailer. Unfortunately, the rules for rear underride guards do not require that companies buy the strongest or most effective models.
Wider, lower guards are often better at preventing fatal collisions than the cheapest guards that comply with federal regulations. Many companies would rather save a few hundred dollars than proactively seek to protect the public. They may even ignore signs that rust or age has compromised the usefulness of a rear underride guard on an older trailer.
The same mentality also explains why so many trailers do not have side underride guards attached. Side underride guards are essentially sheets of metal that hang between the axles on a trailer to keep vehicles from going under the trailer from the side. There is not yet a federal law requiring such guards despite a growing body of evidence that they save lives.
Far too many trucking companies put their short-term profit margins ahead of overall road safety when deciding what types of guards to install. Filing a personal injury or wrongful death lawsuit after a semi-truck collision caused in part by ineffective guards is one way to insist that cutting corners in this way is both unacceptable and consequential.