Eight biggest rear underride manufacturers all get top grade from IIHS

Photo: IIHS

Photo: IIHS

The eight biggest manufacturers of rear underride guards have all been given the highest rating from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The eight companies account for 80% of the market, according to the IIHS. They are Great Dane LLC, Hyundai Translead, Manac Inc., Stoughton Trailers LLC, Strick Trailers LLC, Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co., Vanguard National Trailer Corp. and Wabash National Corp. A spokesman for the IIHS said it did not test the manufacturers in the remaining 20%.

The approval of the eight biggest manufacturers is a key development in a cycle that began seven years ago. When the IIHS kicked off that cycle, their wording in the press release was stark: “New crash tests and analysis by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety demonstrate that underride guards on tractor-trailers can fail in relatively low-speed crashes — with deadly consequences.”

Compare that to the strong words of achievement by the IIHS this time around. The eight companies all received the TOUGHGUARD award from the IIHS. The eight for eight was accomplished only because Strick has reached the qualifications to receive the TOUGHGUARD designation. In the first testing, Manac was the only company with that designation, but others improved their processes and standards to meet the IIHS requirements, and five of the eight companies got the designation a year ago. Numbers six and seven were Hundrai Translead and Utility Trailer, with Strick rounding out the group.

"We're pleased that all the major manufacturers responded positively to our underride tests," David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer, said in a prepared statement. "By improving their guards, these companies have demonstrated a commitment to the safety of passenger vehicle occupants who share the road with their trailers."

In the statement, the IIHS spells out what Strick did to get the designation. It added vertical supports at the edges of the underride, which the IIHS described as “a strategy that was also employed successfully by other manufacturers.”

There are federal standards for underride protection. But there also is a bill languishing in Congress, sponsored by a bipartisan team of Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Florida) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-New York) that would toughen federal standards. However, its mere existence did help lead to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance earlier this year sponsoring “Underride Week.”

 There is no federal side underride requirement, but the Rubio-Gillibrand bill would require them. In its announcement of the rear underride designations, the group said it had tested a side guard called the “AngelWing,” produced by Airflow Deflector. “It successfully prevented underride when a Chevrolet Malibu struck the side of a trailer at 35 mph and 40 mph in two separate tests,” the IIHS said.

The group does not have legal standing, so its designation is not required by law. But given the financial stakes in litigation surrounding underride crashes—as Great Dane can tell you, successfully having fought off a lawsuit related to side underrides earlier this year—the designation could be a benefit in litigation.