Most of the trucks people encounter on local roads are considered "single-unit" trucks. A single unit truck is a truck with a gross vehicle weight rating of at least 10,000 pounds, which does not have a tractor trailer attached to it. The drive train, cab, engine, and cargo area are all on a single chassis. Single unit trucks are distinct from tractor trailers, which have a separate tractor pulling a trailer. Local delivery trucks, dump trucks, garbage, trucks, cement trucks, and a wide variety of other vehicles are all classified as single unit trucks.
Unfortunately, these vehicles do not have effective safety equipment in place to prevent one of the most serious and deadly types of truck accidents. While there are strict rules for most large commercial vehicles mandating rear guards to prevent underride accidents, there are no such comprehensive safety regulations for single unit trucks. The result is motorists are put at risk every day. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has announced an attempt to rectify this issue, as two new proposed rules are being put forth, which are both aimed at preventing underride accidents involving single unit trucks.
New NHTSA Rules Could Prevent Deadly Truck Accidents
In its notice of proposed rules, NHTSA explains why underride accidents are so dangerous. In an underride accident, a rear vehicle (a passenger car) slides underneath the body or chassis of a larger lead vehicle. The undercarriage of the truck intrudes on the passenger compartment of the vehicle as it slides underneath the truck. Fatalities can result. Rear guards can prevent this when required and installed on large, high vehicles.
NHTSA's proposed rule would require installation of underride guards on single unit trucks. If the proposed rule moves forward successfully and becomes a requirement for truck manufacturers and trucking companies, approximately 342,000 single unit trucks nationwide would be affected. This is hundreds of thousands more trucks that would have guards on them, preventing people from sliding underneath the truck body when an accident happens.
NHTSA also has a second proposed regulation, also aimed at reducing underride crashes and other truck accident risks. NHTSA's second rule would mandate reflective tape be used on single unit vehicles in order to make the vehicles more visible to other motorists. When drivers are better able to see the outline of the single unit truck, motorists are less likely to become involved in a collision with them.
NHTSA rules take a long time to move through the rule making process, so single unit trucks are not going to be required to have reflective tape or underride guards anytime soon. In the meantime, drivers and passengers of standard cars remain at risk if truck operators do not choose to voluntary use rear guards to prevent deadly underride accidents. Truckers and other motorists on the road need to exercise care to try to prevent these serious and often-fatal crashes from happening.