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Side guards on trucks may become required, depends on research results

Although controlled crashes involving cars have shown side guards can be effective, critics contest they're still unproven.

LOUISVILLE, Ky. — With most semis, there are large gaps between the bed of their trailers and the road. And those at times have been deadly danger zones for cars.

They are called underride crashes.

That's why safety guards on the back of trucks have already been required to minimize serious injuries and death in rear-end collisions.

However, nothing really has been done to block that large empty space on the sides of trucks until now.

The trillion dollar infrastructure bill signed into law in mid-November requires not only better inspection of rear safety guards, but also calls for more research on side guards. 

This could give Transportation Sec. Pete Buttigieg the green light down the road to require them on trucks as well.

That's something the trucking lobby, such as the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, has fiercely opposed.

Christa Hammack lost her daughter, Erin, in an underride crash in 2018. Erin and her friend went under a jack-knifed truck which crossed over into their lane.

Hammack has been fighting for side guards ever since.

"We were very relieved to have the pressure cooker lifted to get the right voices at the right table," Hammack said.

The "Advisory Committee on Underride Protection" committee mentioned in the bill will have two representatives from motor vehicle engineers, motor vehicle crash investigators, truck safety organizations, the insurance industry and families of crash victims.

The Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association wonders if their arguments that side safety rails will cost too much money, will affect weight distribution or will cause trucks to get stuck on tracks will be considered.

Although controlled crashes involving cars have shown side guards can be effective, critics contest they're still unproven.

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