Most people on the road understand that large commercial trucks pose a threat to smaller passenger vehicles. The number of serious and fatal crashes with these vehicles is on the rise. Many drivers avoid the areas next to and behind commercial trucks to reduce their risk. However, when traffic is heavy and speeds are high, drivers may have less control over who's in the next lane. No matter how carefully you drive, you simply can't avoid sharing close quarters with a commercial vehicle occasionally.
It only takes a second for something to go wrong when driving next to a truck. Maybe the truck driver swerves into another lane or loses control. Perhaps a tire blows out, sending a vehicle sideways or diagonally toward the truck. There could even be a wet or oily patch of road that leaves a car sliding out of control.
Unless there are special metal guards in place, these vehicles can end up underneath the commercial truck's trailer. Many times these accidents, called side underride accidents, have serious consequences, including severe injuries and death.
Side underride accidents pose a grave danger
Because of the limited clearance under a commercial vehicle, a side underride accident can involve shearing the top of the smaller vehicle off. Crushing injuries and decapitations are commonly a result. These accidents happen in a matter of moments, and anything from poor road conditions to driver error and even mechanical issues in either vehicle can cause them. Side underride crashes often have tragic endings.
In general, vehicles involved in these kinds of crashes aren't reparable. Many times passengers sustain massive injuries that lead either to permanent disability or death. Hospitalization, surgery, physical therapy and ongoing treatments for years may be necessary for a full recovery. Side underride crashes can be deadly, and other drivers can only do so much to limit their risk for this kind of collision.
Rear guards already exist
The federal government already mandates that semitrucks have special guards in the back to prevent rear underride accidents. There are no current requirements for side guards, although such regulation is likely in the future. With the severity of injuries associated with these kinds of accidents, you'd think that commercial drivers and their employers would be racing to install special side guards. There are, in fact, already special guards available to significantly reduce the risk of these kinds of crashes.
So why don't more companies install them? The reason is usually expense for the guard itself and its reduction in how much weight can be hauled. These metal guards add to the vehicle's weight, reducing the overall capacity available for cargo. For those who survive these crashes and people who lose loved ones to underride crashes, that answer isn't good enough.