The eight top manufacturers of rear underride guards for tractor-trailers and other large commercial vehicles have all been awarded the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety’s (IIHS) highest safety rating for the first time ever.
Rear underride guards for tractor-trailers make the difference between life and death for hundreds of motorists who collide with the back of a large commercial vehicle every year. The guards are steel bars that hang from the backs of tractor-trailers to prevent a passenger vehicle from moving underneath in a rear crash.
Should the rear underride guards fail, the resulting collision is usually catastrophic for the vehicle occupants. But that is what was happening all too often due to federal regulations mandating safety standards that critics say are too weak.
Federal safety requirements for underride guards are still minimal, but seven years ago the IIHS notified the manufacturers, saying that its tests showed their guards failed even in low-speed, low-impact collisions. The industry has made steady improvement since then, with more of the manufacturers passing the IIHS underride crash tests.
According to the IIHS, last year, five of the eight underride guard manufacturers earned the group’s TOUGHGUARD award. This year, after the companies improved their underride guard designs, all of them earned the IIHS TOUGHGUARD award.
“We’re pleased that all the major manufacturers responded positively to our underride tests,” said David Zuby, IIHS chief research officer. “By improving their guards, these companies have demonstrated a commitment to the safety of passenger vehicle occupants who share the road with their trailers.”
The eight rear underride guard makers account for 80 percent of the guards being used on the road today, 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. The organization did not test the 20 percent of guards made by the smaller manufacturers.
There is currently a bipartisan-sponsored bill in Congress that would institute tougher federal standards for rear underride guards, which have been in place for half a century. The bill would also mandate side underride guards on tractor-trailers, which are widely used outside of the U.S. The trucking lobby, however, fiercely opposes a side-underride guard requirement.