My wife Sara has learned that all 18 wheelers on our highways should have underride protection. In our travels, especially on our trips to Atlanta on I-85, as we approach a big truck on the highway, she will observe that a truck has this type protective device or that the one in place on another truck doesn’t look very strong. Sara has picked up her expertise from listening to me discuss the need for this type of safety protection. It didn’t take her long – being an Emory University graduate – to catch on. Unfortunately, many heavy trucks and trailers are defectively designed in that the vehicles don’t have proper rear underride protection devices. Properly designed, an underride protection device will extend below the trailer in order to prevent an automobile from riding under the trailer in the event of a rear impact.
The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) issued a standard in 1996 that required new trucks trailers and semi-trailer to be equipped with a rear guard that was to prevent a vehicle following a truck from underridding it in a rear-end collision. In January 1996, NHTSA issued FMVSS 223 and 224. FMVSS 223 specifies the height, width, length, and strength requirements for rear impact guards for trailers and semi-trailers. FMVSS 224 establishes requirements for the installation of rear impact guard on trailers and semi-trailers with a GVWR of 10,000 pounds or more manufactured on or after January 1998. We have represented numerous clients who have lost loved ones as a result of a defectively-designed underride protection guard. When a passenger car is allowed to underride a heavy truck or trailer, it will most likely result in severe injuries or death to occupants in the vehicle because passenger cars are substantially lower than the bed of a heavy truck trailer. When appropriate underride guards are in place, vehicles are prevented from underriding these trailers and severe injuries and deaths that occur in foreseeable rear-end collisions are substantially reduced.