Often-fatal underride crashes that occur when a passenger vehicle slides under a truck trailer are becoming less frequent as more trailer makers make standard guards to prevent them.
The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) persuaded the eight largest trailer makers to install rear underride guards — metal bumpers that hang from the backs of semi-trailers — to prevent a passenger car from sliding under the trailer in a rear impact. By September 2018, all eight received good ratings for underride protection.
On Tuesday, the IIHS said Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., based in City of Industry, California, earned its TOUGHGUARD award by making a new underride guard standard on all dry and refrigerated vans and flatbeds manufactured after December 2019.
Utility, one of the Big 8 trailer makers, previously offered an optional auxiliary vertical bumper on dry and refrigerated vans. Utility designed its new guard to weigh less and protect the horizontal portion of the guard from loading and unloading damage.
Joining the club
In March, Louisville-based Kentucky Trailer became the first company after the initial eight to seek the IIHS TOUGHGUARD award. It supplied the IIHS with video footage and data of its own testing. IIHS looked at the data and said properly equipped dry vans met the standard.
“We initially focused on the eight largest trailer manufacturers because they had about 90% of the market,” IIHS spokesman Joe Young told FreightWaves. “We are pretty content right now. The one point we know is that all trailers were up to federal standards.
The IIHS began awarding TOUGHGUARD status in 2017 for underride prevention.
The IIHS released results of crash tests in 2011 that showed the performance of many underride guards was lacking, particularly in offset crashes. Even guards that met federal requirements could buckle or break off in a crash.
Of the approximately 450,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2017, there were 4,237 (1%) fatal crashes and 344,000 (23%) with injuries, according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA). How many of those involved rear-end crashes is unknown.
Federal regulators agreed in 2019 to begin inspecting rear guards on trucks as part of routine annual inspections as recommended by the Government Accountability Office (GAO).
The IIHS began conducting three separate crash tests in 2013. In each, a typical midsize car travels at 35 mph toward the back of a parked semi-trailer.
- In the full-width test, the car strikes the center of the guard head-on.
- In the 50% overlap, half of the car’s front end strikes the guard.
- In the 30% overlap, the toughest evaluation, 30% of the car’s front strikes the corner of the trailer.
Nine companies now have trailers that passed all three tests. Here is a rundown:
- Great Dane
Applies to all dry van, refrigerated and platform units built after December 2018, in addition to earlier units equipped with the RIG30 option.
- Hyundai Translead
Applies to all dry van and refrigerated units built after December 2017 and earlier units equipped with the RIG30 option.
- Kentucky Trailer
Applies to all dry van units with the KT30-RIG option built after February 2020.
Applies to all 90,000 series dry vans, refrigerated and open-top units built after June 2011.
Applies to all dry van units built after October 2016.
Applies to all long dry van models built after December 2018 and short, single-axle vans built after March 2019.
Applies to all dry van, refrigerated and flatbed units built after December 2019. Also applies to dry and refrigerated vans built before January 2020 and equipped with the additional auxiliary vertical bumper option.
Applies to all dry van units built after December 2015 and all refrigerated units built after September 2016.
Applies to dry van units with the RIG-16 option built after February 2016.
Applies to refrigerated units with the RIG-16 option built after December 2016.