The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) has awarded Chicago-based trailer designer and manufacturer Great Dane with its Toughguard award, which recognizes rear underride guards that serve to prevent deadly underride crashes in which a car or other passenger vehicle rear-ends a trailer and runs under it, often shearing the roof off the vehicle and killing its occupants.
The dangers of underride crashes became national news when actress Jayne Mansfield collided with the back of a tractor-trailer on a Slidell, Louisiana, highway in 1967. The horrific nature of the crash, which decapitated Ms. Mansfield, triggered the very first calls for commercial trailers to be fitted with protective barriers to prevent such crashes in the future.
But it wasn’t until 1998 that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) mandated rear underride guards, also known as Mansfield bars, on trailers.
Great Dane’s rear underride guards already met federal safety standards but the company chose to take a proactive approach to improving the performance of the guards even more. The guards now exceed current rules in place in the U.S. and Canada, as well as new requirements proposed by NHTSA to essentially align U.S. underride regulations with those of Canada.
“There was no requirement or incentive, other than enhancing the safety of our products, for Great Dane to make this update,” Chris Lee, Great Dane vice president of engineering, said. “It is important for us to promote safety, and we do that by including this new design as a standard on all of our trailer product lines – reefers, dry vans and flatbeds.”
The improved rear underride guards will be standard on all Great Dane trailers starting later this year. Additionally, the guards will be available to retrofit on trailers made after 2006.
NHTSA statistics show that about 200 people are killed in underride crashes every year, but some groups say the crashes are likely a lot more common. According to Crash Forensics, underride crashes represent one quarter of the fatalities from truck-involved collisions.