Trucking Industry Resists Calls for Life-Saving Device

Sideguards on tractor-trailers would help prevent some of the most devastating injuries on the road. So why are freight companies and trailer manufacturers opposed to the idea?

Thousands of collisions between tractor-trailers and passenger automobiles occur every year in our state. Predictably, automobiles take the brunt of the damage. In fact, according to recent data from the Indiana State Police, the fatality rate of automobile occupants in these accidents is nine times higher than the fatality rate of those riding inside the cab of the truck.

Sideguards shield the dangerous area underneath a tractor-trailer. This helps mitigate the inherent danger posed by large trucks and smaller automobiles sharing the road. Traffic safety advocates have encouraged the government to require these devices for more than a decade. But industry groups continue to push back.

If you believe sideguards could have reduced the damage inflicted on you or a loved one during a truck accident, we encourage you to review the information below and then contact McNeely Stephenson for advice.

How Sideguards Can Prevent Catastrophic Injuries

Consider the following hypothetical traffic accident:

  • An automobile is traveling on W. 86th Street on the northwest side of Indianapolis.
  • As the automobile approaches the N. Michigan Road intersection, a large truck heading in the opposite direction makes an illegal left turn. The truck pulls directly into the path of the oncoming automobile.
  • The automobile crashes broadside into the truck’s cargo trailer at a high rate of speed.
  • Upon impact, the lower portion of the automobile continues forward, passing beneath the trailer through the gap between the front and rear axles.
  • At the same time, the upper portion of the automobile contacts the bottom edge of the trailer and is completely sheared off, decapitating the people inside.

This is referred to as an “underride” accident. Tragically, accidents like this can and do happen. Underride accidents can also come about when an automobile and tractor-trailer are traveling side-by-side. All it takes is a little ice on the road – as we see all too often here in Indiana – and the two vehicles can slide into each other, causing the automobile to get pulled under and crushed by the rear wheels of the trailer.

Sideguards can prevent these gruesome accidents. They work in a very simple manner. The guards are installed along the bottom edges of a cargo trailer to close off the open space created by the trailer’s high ground clearance. This prevents automobiles (as well as bicyclists and pedestrians) from going under the trailer during an accident.

Opposition Efforts by the Industry

The Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association (TTMA) is a trade group founded in 1941. It represents the largest truck trailer producers in the United States. According to its letter to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration sent May 13th of last year, TTMA opposes mandatory sideguards. The letter includes the following arguments:

  • The federal government has not required sideguards in the past, so it should not require them now.
  • Sideguards would be technologically difficult. For example, ice and snow could accumulate on this area of the trailer.
  • Two 26-foot-long sideguards would add $1,560 to the cost of a trailer, based on a 2004 study ($2,044 in today’s money).
  • Adding sideguards would increase a trailer’s gross weight by approximately 1,100 pounds. The amount of allowed freight would need to be reduced accordingly, making trips less profitable.
  • Side underride accidents are “relatively” infrequent.

Those who have lost family members to underride accidents would obviously disagree. Concerns like these should never take precedence over the lives of innocent motorists.

Sideguards are already in use across Europe and in some U.S. cities. Given this trend, it may only be a matter of time until federal regulators get on board, despite industry lobbying. The only question is how many more motorists will be hurt or killed in the meantime.

The vehicle accident lawyers at McNeely Stephenson are available to discuss your legal rights following a collision in Indiana. Call (888) 991-7921 or submit the contact form at the top of the page.