Many trailer manufacturers have been proactive in building safer trailers. The most recent example is the development of new rear underride guards. The newer designs are built to stop an automobile from sliding under the trailer in the event of a rear-impact crash.
The number of fatalities due to underride crashes was 2,205 within a 10-year period ending in 2014, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA). While many of the older underride guards were compliant under federal regulations—which have not been updated since 1998—new rear impact guard designs have taken a huge step forward to help mitigate or even prevent serious injuries, or deaths, when these types of crashes take place.
New rear underride guards by the likes of Great Dane, Wabash and Stoughton tout stronger building materials and better performance to help mitigate the severity of collisions. Designs can vary from manufacturer to manufacturer, so it’s a good idea to ask a potential trailer OEM partner how their specific solution has improved safety and maybe even help to mitigate off-center collisions.
Beyond the rear underride guard, trailer manufacturers are considering side underride guards—which, unlike rear underride guards, are not required by federal law.
There is currently a bill working its way through Congress — dubbed the Stop Underrides Act — that would require underride guards on the sides and front of heavy-duty trailers. It also includes language that would mandate strengthened rear underride guards.
Much like the strengthened rear underride guards, designing safe side guards would take significant engineering and testing efforts, as trailer manufacturers would not want to add guards that adversely affect the overall trailer design, or that add too much weight.