IIHS Announces First TOUGHGUARD Awards

IIHS said there were 427 passenger vehicle crashes in 2015 where the passenger vehicle rear-ended a large truck. Such crashes have increased each year since 2011, according to the institute.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety announced that five North American semitrailer manufacturers have earned its new Toughguard award for creating rear underride guards that can prevent underride by a midsize car in three test modes — full-width, 50 percent overlap, and 30 percent overlap — with the car traveling at 35 mph. Semitrailers from Great Dane LLC, Manac Inc., Stoughton Trailers LLC, Vanguard National Trailer Corp., and Wabash National Corp. earned the award, IIHS announced March 1.

Underride guards, quite familiar to U.S. motorists by now, are the metal bumper that hangs from the back of a semitrailer and works to stop a smaller vehicle from sliding beneath a high-riding trailer in a rear-impact crash, thus preserving survival space for the people inside the lower-riding vehicle. All underride guards must meet federal safety standards, but IIHS research and crash tests have shown that many underride guards can buckle or break off in a crash, and when they do fail, the crashes often result in death or serious injury to people in passenger vehicles.

IIHS said there were 427 passenger vehicle crashes in 2015 where the passenger vehicle rear-ended a large truck. Such crashes have increased each year since 2011, according to the institute.

The test modes that is toughest to pass is where 30 percent of the front of the car strikes the trailer at its outermost corner: Underride guards are weakest at the outer edges of a trailer.

IIHS said the award is the culmination of six years of IIHS research and testing. "Our research told us that too many people die in crashes with large trucks because underride guards are too weak," said David Zuby, the institute's executive vice president and chief research officer, "so we designed crash tests to replicate scenarios where guards have failed in real-world crashes. At first, only one of the semitrailers we evaluated passed all three tests — the Manac. Now five trailers do. Manufacturers really took our findings to heart and voluntarily improved their guard designs."

Semitrailers from Hyundai Translead, Strick Trailers LLC, and Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. have passed the full-width and 50 percent overlap tests but not the 30 percent overlap evaluation; those three manufacturers are working on improvements, and IIHS will evaluate their new designs when they are available for testing.

"IIHS isn't a regulatory agency, and other than safety, there was no incentive for semitrailer manufacturers to make improvements," Zuby said. "When we started testing, we weren't sure how they would respond. These companies deserve a lot of recognition for their commitment to addressing the problem of underride crashes."

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