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NHTSA mulls new underride guard rules for trucks

One of the most severe risks posed by commercial trucks to passenger cars on New Jersey highways is the underride accident. This describes what happens when the smaller vehicle collides with the rear or side of the truck and goes partially underneath it, shearing off the car's roof and seriously or fatally injuring the car's occupants.

Underride guards on the backs of trucks have been mandatory since 1953, but there are no requirements that they be mounted on the sides. There are also no specific regulations governing the composition of these guards. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration is considering expanding its oversight of this issue by considering the issuance of new standards.

For example, since the underride guards on a tractor-trailer are not required to be made of sturdy material or mounted correctly, it is possible they might would serve no useful purpose in an accident. The proposed safety standards could inquire into the manufacture and installation of these underride guards or require guards on the side of the vehicle. The NHTSA has invited comments from safety experts and other members of the public. However, some trucking company owners have already indicated their concern over how much upgrading the guards would cost. They are also worried that any increase in weight of the newer guards, plus the added weight resulting from side guards, would have the effect of reducing the amount of cargo that they can carry and thus their profits.

While the proposals if adopted could reduce the severity of some underride accidents, they will not reduce their frequency. Truck accidents will still result from truck drivers who are distracted or speeding as well as from improper maintenance of brakes and other components. People who have been injured in such an accident that was caused by the negligence of a truck driver or trucking company may want to meet with a personal injury attorney in order to see how best to seek compensation for their losses.

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