In December 2017, a bipartisan bill that would require side guards on tractor-trailers to prevent deadly underride crashes was introduced to the Senate. One year later, Congress has yet to take any action on the bill.
The Stop Underrides Act calls for new regulations that would require tractor-trailer and other heavy vehicles weighing more than 10,000 pounds to install side underride guards. The bill would also require the U.S. Department of Transportation to review the underride standards every five years for improvement or modification and to strengthen rear-underride guards that are already required on tractor-trailers and other large trucks.
The Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, where the bill was referred, has not held a hearing on the bill or taken any other action on it since its introduction, despite transportation data that shows it could spare hundreds of motorists from death and disfigurement every year.
In the meantime, the bill’s sponsors, Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) and Marco Rubio (R-FL), have asked to the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA) to consider upgrading the voluntary standards for rear guards with cracks, rust, or corrosion, placing trucks with deficient guards out-of-service.
Underride crashes occur when a car or other relatively small vehicle collides with a large truck and slides underneath it. Side underride crashes usually happen when a tractor-trailer jackknifes on the road and drivers behind the truck or in an opposing lane don’t have enough time to avoid a collision.
Side and rear underride crashes are horrific. Smaller passenger vehicles usually have their top sheared off by the high clearance between the bottom of the trailer and the road. Victims of side underride crashes are often decapitated. Those who survive are sometimes left with lifelong debilitating injuries.
Marianne Karth, who lost two of her teen daughters in an underride crash in 2013 has been pushing lawmakers to pass the Stop Underrides Act.
“It is very frustrating to know that every day the bill is delayed more people will continue to die, more families will be devastated by unimaginable grief,” Ms. Karth said, according to RTV6 Indianapolis. “And why is that, why aren’t we acting decisively to save lives?”