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Semi-trailer bumpers prone to failure

Whenever a car collides with a truck, the potential for serious bodily injury is great. Rear-end collisions involving a truck and a passenger vehicle pose the most significant risks of all. In this type of truck accident, the passenger vehicle's hood can slide under the trailer and the trailer can crush the passenger compartment of the car. Truck underride accidents in the United States result in the death of more than 350 people per year and there is valid cause for concern that not enough has been done to prevent these deaths.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety recently conducted a test of the rear impact guards that are fastened to the back of semi-trucks. These guards are intended to prevent cars from going underneath the trucks, which can lead to fatal and serious injuries, including the decapitation of the driver.

The Institute used a 2010 Chevy Malibu for its study. The car traveled at the moderate speed of 35 miles per hour and was slammed into the rear end of a parked semi-truck trailer. The Institute found that the rear guard that meets U.S. minimum safety standards gave way, which allowed the car to slide under the trailer, completely crushing the vehicle.

According to the Institute, any passengers in the front seat of the car during the truck accident would have been killed. Institute President, Adrian Lund, states that the government needs to implement stricter safety standards and believes that this will lead to fewer injuries and deaths as a result of truck accidents.

Stronger rear impact guards, similar to those used in Canada, remained intact during the Institute's testing and prevented the car from sliding underneath the truck trailer.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has stated that they are well aware of the issue regarding impact guards and that they have been studying the issue since 2009. They also stated that they hope to finish their review of the issue next year. However, the last time that rear underride standards were raised, it took 20 years to go into effect.

Source: ABC News, "Truck Underride Accidents: Drivers Endangered When Cars Slide Under Trailers," 3/1/2011

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