Maybe you have seen the videos of the crash test dummies in a mid-size sedan slamming into the back or the side of a tractor-trailer. Whether you have or not, though, you can probably imagine the serious or fatal injuries that would result from such a crash on a highway in New Jersey.
In Congress, senators on both sides of the aisle have drafted legislation to address these types of collisions.
The goal of the bill
The Stop Underrides Act states that its goal is to improve safety on the roads for commercial and passenger vehicles and to lower the number of underride crash-related injuries and fatalities. The Act cites the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s report on hundreds of such collisions, which were preventable. The lawmakers introduced the Act in memory of thousands of underride crash victims.
Currently, federal law requires all tractor-trailers and commercial trucks of a certain size to have a guard on the rear of the trailer to prevent a vehicle from sliding under it. However, the standards for these have not been updated since the 1990s, and they have proven inadequate in many circumstances. The Act proposes updated specifications for these rear guards, and also proposes to mandate side guards between the wheels of tractor-trailers.
If the Act does become law, trucking companies do not have to rush their vehicles in for modifications. While you may have already seen the new guards on trailers from forward-thinking, safety-conscious manufacturers and trucking companies, you will probably not see them on all trucks for some time. Although all new trucks produced no more than one year after the new law takes effect will have to have the guards, companies will have two years to retrofit trucks already on the road.
This information about tractor-trailer safety features and federal law is provided for educational purposes and should not be interpreted as legal advice.