IIHS Touts Side Underride Guards for Heavy Trucks

"Our tests and research show that side underride guards have the potential to save lives," said David Zuby, the institute's executive vice president and chief research officer. "We think a mandate for side underride guards on large trucks has merit, especially as crash deaths continue to rise on our roads."

Crash tests indicate underride guards on the sides of tractor-trailers effectively prevent a passenger vehicle from sliding beneath the side of the semitrailer, a possibly fatal crash scenario for those inside the car, the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety reported May 10.

The tests this year were the first time IIHS has evaluated a side underride guard. It ran two 35-mph crash tests, one with a side underride protection device from Airflow Deflector Inc. and a second test with a fiberglass side skirt intended to improve aerodynamics, not to prevent an underride. The results were dramatically different, the institute reported: "In both tests, a midsize car struck the center of a 53-foot-long dry van trailer. In the [Airflow] test, the underride guard bent but didn't allow the car to go underneath the trailer, so the car's airbags and safety belt could properly restrain the test dummy in the driver seat. In the second test with no underride guard for protection, the car ran into the trailer and kept going. The impact sheared off part of the roof, and the sedan became wedged beneath the trailer. In a real-world crash like this, any occupants in the car would likely sustain fatal injuries."

IIHS has been testing rear underride truck guards for several years and recently announced the first winners of the new TOUGHGUARD award recognizing rear underride guards designed to prevent underride in a range of crashes into the backs of tractor-trailers. So far, five North American semitrailer manufacturers have qualified for the award.

"Our tests and research show that side underride guards have the potential to save lives," said David Zuby, the institute's executive vice president and chief research officer. "We think a mandate for side underride guards on large trucks has merit, especially as crash deaths continue to rise on our roads."

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