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Driving safety is one of the most important concerns for everyone on the road, whether you're an owner-operator or you work for a larger carrier; safe, defensive driving is always something semi-truck drivers have in mind due to the high potential for serious damage and injury in the event of collision, no matter the circumstances. And the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety is looking into trailer safety features that can prevent one of the more severe incidents: cars traveling under your trailer in the event of a side collision.
Currently, 18-wheeler trailers are required to have rear underride guards, regardless of the state you're traveling through, and the IIHS has been testing the effectiveness of side guards to see if they are equally effective and should be equally mandated. Having an underguard means that a sedan or low vehicle can't slide under the trailer and leave its occupants unprotected from the impact. Instead, the device triggers safety features like airbags and starts to collapse the metal or fiberglass frame to protect the passengers. This can save lives, as the Institute estimated that half of fatal crashes resulted in the passenger vehicle riding under the trailer in 2015.
Once side guards have been fully tested, two situations are likely to arise: one, side underride guards will be mandated for 18-wheelers on either a state or federal level to reduce fatal collisions. In the event that the laws don't change soon, insurance companies and large carriers may start to incentivize fleets and independent owner-operators to install side guards themselves, through either reduced premiums or by favoring safer vehicles. While the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety's research isn't complete yet, changes will be on the way. If you'd like to keep up with their progress and other trailer technology news, please browse our latest news here.
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