I-Team: Underride guards fail some crash tests

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – It’s a scenario no driver wants to be a part of. The big-rig in front of you hits the brakes, and you try to avoid hitting the rear of the trailer, but sometimes it can’t be avoided. Luckily, the crash you saw in the video above was staged, but that’s not always the case.

In 2011, hundreds of people were killed just like that, after their car slid under the rear of a truck. The very thing these steel bars, called underride guards are designed to prevent, but a 22News I-Team investigation found not all under-ride guards are in very good condition.

Look around next time you’re on the road, and you may see what we saw; some that are rusted, old, and worse already badly bent. Luckily, it’s not always the case.

The I-Team saw Paul LaFond inspecting his own truck as a rest stop. He told us MassDOT will stop and ticket you if you don’t keep up with maintenance which he claims most companies do.

“That should be written up daily, every vehicle on the road has to be written up daily, after every, like i did, you watched me walk around and inspect the whole truck,” LaFond said.

The I-Team also found some drivers simply aren’t too concerned with it. “If that were your truck would you get that fixed? No, when you’re trying to keep a business afloat with the cost of maintenance and tires and everything, that would probably be the least on my list of worries, so for you it’s about business, it’s not about safety on the road, it’s about money, keeping your head above water, surviving out here you know,” the driver said, who didn’t want to give us his name.

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety which conducted these controlled tests petitioned the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for tougher standards, like those that have been enforced in Canada for years.

According to IIHS, some manufacturers have voluntarily installed stronger guards but they want more protection.

“The problem is, when guards are only designed to minimally meet that standard, they’re not strong enough to keep that from happening in crashes even in speeds as low as 35 miles per hour,” said David Zuby, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety.

The federal government mandated underride guards after Jayne Mansfield, a 60s Hollywood actress was killed instantly in a crash like that.

While there have been great improvements since then, the IIHS continues to lobby for more. The responsibility lies with more than just truck manufacturers: it’s important for you to keep your eyes on the road.

“Usually it’s people not paying attention, going too fast texting and driving which you see constantly and when you’re doing this, you can’t see that truck stopped in front of you or a car or anything else,” LaFond said.

Click here to see which specific trailers passed and failed safety test.

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