Stronger semitrailer rear guards succeed and fail in crash tests - WSMV Channel 4

Stronger semitrailer rear guards succeed and fail in crash tests

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NASHVILLE, TN (WSMV) -

Stronger safety devices in Canada designed to protect drivers in accidents with semitrailers both succeed and fail in crash tests, a Channel 4 I-Team investigation found.

A Channel 4 I-Team investigation found how a safety device, called an underride guard, required on all semitrailers has proven to break in test crashes and in a deadly accident in Middle Tennessee

When Paul Warren crashed into the back of a semitrailer during a 50-car pileup on Vietnam Veterans Parkway on Dec 1, 2011, he struck the metal guard that's designed to keep cars from sliding underneath the truck.

A Channel 4 I-Team investigation found the guard, often called an underride guard or an ICC bar, broke and bent, sending Warren's car underneath.

Underride guards are made of steel and are bolted, or welded, onto the trailer and hang low to prevent cars from sliding underneath.

Every semitrailer hauling 10,000 pounds or more is required to have them.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety set up real-world crashes where different underride guards, all meeting government standards, were struck by a 2010 Chevy Malibu.

The underride guards broke in every test.

"The current standard for those underride guards is very weak," said IIHS spokesman Russ Rader.

When the IIHS tested underride guards from Canada, where they are made stronger, the guards held.

It was only when the Canadian underride guards were struck at an angle did they also fail, according to the IIHS tests.

But requiring a stronger underride guard isn't without controversy.

In a statement to the Channel 4 I-Team, Jeff Sims, the president of the Truck Trailer Manufacturers Association, said, "Fatalities have continued to occur in rear collisions even without excessive underride. The potential for more fatalities of this type will go up as guards are made more rigid."

The IIHS researchers disputed that, saying that cars are now built with the ability to better absorb crashes from the front, even when hitting harder surfaces.

"There was a legit concern, if you make the guards too stiff, that could increase injuries. But that's clearly not the case now, and our tests show that," Rader said.

U.S. Congressman Jim Cooper, D-Nashville, reviewed the I-Team's findings and said the government should closely examine if the underride guards should be strengthened.

"These things are not as safe as they should be. It should be strong enough, where the cars don't go underneath the truck," Cooper said.

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration is currently conducting an in-depth field analysis on the underride guards.

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