Side guards might seem like another costly regulation for truckers, but don’t lose your head over it.
Stop Underrides Act
The Stop Underrides Act has gone through Congress twice before, in 2017 and 2019. Two changes make it more likely to pass this time. First, Donald Trump’s methodology of cutting regulations more than adding them has been replaced with Democrat control. Second, the bill has been modified from its previous versions to not require retrofitting.
Unlike the proposed Green New Deal and more like the Firearms Owners Protection Act, the new version of the bill only requires side guards to be implemented on every trailer that comes after it is enacted. This method of regulation is called “Grandfathering” and is common in the trucking industry, such as with fuel efficiency standards. You can continue driving your old tractor-trailer as long as you like, but the inevitable passage of time will make you upgrade in the future.
The side guards are intended to prevent underriding, where a four-wheeler goes under the trailer when hitting it from the side.
This video demonstrates collisions at 35 MPH, which might seem slowed compared to normal highway driving, but presumably a driver knowing they are about to crash would slow down as much as possible to minimize the collision speed.
Supporters of the bill include various safety organizations, including Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH), of which board member Jennifer Tierney lost her father to an underride.
“For over 37 years, I have dedicated my life to preventing underride crashes by supporting overdue action by the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue federal safety standards requiring effective underride guards on trucks,” Jennifer Tierney says about the bill. “That changes with the introduction of the Stop Underrides Act. It directs agency rulemakings which will make trucks safer, protect motorists and spare families like mine the loss of a loved one.“
American Trucking Associations is against the bill, stating that there is not enough real-world testing of side underride guards to mandate them on all trailers, especially ones such as tankers where the design would not mesh well with the side guards.
With the lack of retrofitting and a Democrat majority in both wings of Congress, plus Joe Biden, the Stop Underrides Act has a very good chance of becoming law. If you are worried about this change, it is typical for new laws to go into effect at the start of a year, so you will still have plenty of time to get a new trailer without requiring side guards.
On the positive side, however, it would not be surprising if the addition of side guards reduces the chances of nuclear insurance verdicts from accidents, especially when injuries are reduced to broken bones instead of decapitation.