More than 30 years ago I represented the Estate of a young man who was killed in a horrible truck accident. On a beautiful summer night, the young man was driving home from a fishing trip in Connecticut. Up ahead on a dark highway was a disabled tractor trailer without any rear lights or flashers. Although my client was driving at less than 50 miles per hour, he could not stop in time before he crashed into the disabled trailer. The front of my client’s car slid easily under the back bumper of the trailer and the top of his car was sheared off resulting in his decapitation.
As shocking as this sounds, I soon learned that there had already been thousands of deaths and serious injuries as a result of tractor trailers that were not equipped with rear underride guards.
Fortunately, in 1998, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (“FMCSA”) adopted regulations requiring trucks weighing more than 10,000 pounds to be equipped with rear underride guards. Although the 1998 legislation has saved many lives, studies conducted over the past 50 years have also shown the need for front guards and sideguards.
In 2017, legislation was introduced to mandate the installation of rear, front and side guards on all truck. Although the legislation has been stalled in Congress for the past two years, the “Stop Underrides Act” has gained new momentum as a result of a bipartisan effort by Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY).
Government and private industry studies have shown that properly installed side underride guards will save hundreds of lives each year. Although the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) recommends side underride guards for trucks, Federal legislation is necessary to mandate installation of these guards on all new manufactured trucks. Without the legislation truck manufacturers continue to resist the additional cost of safety guards. Although underride guards cannot stop crashes between passenger vehicles and trucks, the guards will definitely make these crashes survivable.
After more than 50 years of studies, it is now time to pass Federal legislation to protect the motoring public and to protect future generations. The technology is available now and the cost is not significant.
Consumer advocacy groups and the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety have joined forces to support the underride legislation. The Insurance Institute conducted its own tests which showed that strong side underride guards on trucks have the potential to reduce the risk of serious injury or death in about 75% of truck side crashes.
Boston, New York, and Seattle have already introduced regulations requiring side guards on city owned and/or contracted trucks to prevent deaths and injuries, particularly to pedestrians and bicyclists, who can be swept under the sides of trucks on city streets. The time for action is now.
If you have been injured in a trucking accident, it is important to contact an experienced interstate trucking attorney. Please contact the trucking attorneys at Mirick O’Connell.