In May, truck company owners, safety experts, and government representatives met at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) Vehicle Research Center in Ruckersville, VA at an all-day conference regarding fatal underride crashes.
While all attendees agreed that commercial trucks posed a deadly risk for underride accidents, opinions differed on how to correct the problem.
That’s because truck owners are concerned with how much it would cost to upgrade the guards on their vehicles, and whether the increased weight of those guards would force them to decrease their payloads, cutting into their profits.
To show the effectiveness of newer-designed underride guards, the IIHS conducted a crash-test with a Stoughton trailer that was equipped with an upgraded barrier made with steel bars.
A 2010 Chevrolet Malibu was smashed into the rear of the truck’s trailer that was carrying a 34,100-pound payload.
The Malibu was traveling at 35 miles per hour, the standard speed determined by the government at which a passenger vehicle’s occupants can survive a collision.
The test was successful, as the trailer’s upgraded guard prevented the Malibu from passing all the way under the truck, making it likely that the passengers would have survived.
The Stoughton-made rear bars will come standard in late 2016, although the exact cost to truck owners was not disclosed.
What makes these bars different is that they have four supports across the horizontal bar, instead of the two bars, which are standard.
And the bars have been fortified so that they are more durable, and can withstand greater impact.
In an effort to assuage the fears of truck company owners who may have to purchase upgraded bars in the future, the President of Manac, a trailer manufacturer, said that his company could make the necessary fixes for as little as $20, and with a weight addition of only 20 pounds.
But the NHTSA has reported that the upgrades would cost about $2,000, though the IIHS said that number was too high.
John Housego, a North Carolina resident, said that he owns a 2010 Freightliner semi-tractor, and a 2015 Great Dane Trailer, and that he believes side skirts that are now in use to make trucks more fuel-efficient, could double as side underride guards.
Robert Martineau, Chief Executive of Airflow Deflector, and a manufacturer of commercial truck side panels echoed this idea.
Martineau said that he could retrofit his panels to make them stronger, so they could also act as crash deflectors, but did not provide an estimation of the costs.