Rear underridge guards on trucks now more scrutinized: Companies, drivers face hefty fines

They’ve been standard equipment on semi tractor-trailers built after 1998, but rear guards to help prevent backside underride crashes have been left relatively unchecked until now.

Starting Thursday, those rear guards will be part of annual inspections according to the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA).

If a safety rail is deemed to be in bad shape with missing parts, significant corrosion, is not properly fastened, and otherwise doesn’t meet specifications, the trucking companies and truck drivers could face hefty fines.

The added scrutiny was included in the $1 trillion infrastructure bill passed in November.

The bill, which is now law, also requires further research into the effectiveness of side safety guards to help prevent cars from going under trucks resulting in serious injuries and death.

In 2018, Christa Hammack, 49, of Jeffersonville, IN, lost her daughter Erin Alexander in a side underride crash in Texas.

Erin was only 22.

Hammack is now more confident than ever that after U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg sees the results of the research, side underride guards will soon be required on all newly built truck trailers.

“The lobbyists don’t have the voice anymore, it will not have to pass political agenda, it will be science,” Hammack said. “It will be the integrity of the results, it will be the urgency to save lives, is what it should be in the first place.”

An Advisory Committee on Underride Protection will be established and will include members of the trucking industry, law enforcement, and insurance companies, as well as motor vehicle engineers and family members of loved ones killed in underride crashes.

If asked, Hammack says she would not hesitate to be on that committee.