Truck safety advocates work to have sideguards added to new trucks

Investigators

RALEIGH, N.C. (WNCN) – Side collisions with tractor-trailers are some of the deadliest crashes on the road, yet there is technology that can mitigate the impact of those crashes.

However, attempts to pass a law to implement that technology has stalled for years.

Now, with a new Congress in session, truck safety advocates are reintroducing a bill that died in the last session.

The typical truck trailer has 42 inches clearance between it and the road, which happens to be about the same height that you sit inside a typical car.

That means, it doesn’t matter how many safety features your vehicle has, they will do you no good in a side collision with a tractor-trailer.

Riley Hein, 16, was killed in a collision with a tractor trailer in 2015.

“Riley burned to death, the coroner confirmed he had no physical injuries,” said his father, Eric. “If an underride guard had been installed on the trailer, it would have resulted in a fender bender and Riley would still be alive today.”

For several years, truck safety advocates who’ve lost loved ones have tried to get Congress to pass a bill requiring under guards for the sides of tractor-trailers.

It’s been frustrating.

“Most people we talked to had no clue, knew what it was, what it looked like, why it happens and how often it happens,” said Louis Durso Hawkins who lost a daughter to trailer truck crash in 2004.

Supporters of the bill are also dealing with the trucking industry which has lobbied against the guards, saying it’s concerned about the added cost of sideguards.

The technical challenges sideguards would create:

  • Worry that sideguards might weaken trailers structurally
  • Concern sideguards would dangerously increase truck weight

Marianne Karth of Raleigh survived an underride crash that took the lives of her two daughters in 2013.

She’s one of the forces behind the Stop Underride organization. She says the re-introduced bill offers concessions to the trucking industry.

“The original bill was for underride protection to be on both new trucks and retrofitted for older trucks,” said Karth.

“This time we have taken out the retrofit. It’s for new trucks only.

The European Union has required side-guards on trucks since 2003 to protect drivers in side crashes with tactor trailers.

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