Recently, I reviewed proposed language for the “Maintenance Section” of the STOP Underrides! legislation [previously known as the Roya, AnnaLeah & Mary Comprehensive Underride Protection Act of 2017]. Working to accurately spell out what was important to include in requirements for proper maintenance of rear underride guards made me realize how imperative it is that the basic problem of underride be better understood.
A true appreciation of the fundamental underride issue could, in fact, lead to a better grasp of what is at stake if an underride guard is not properly maintained. So that is what I hope to foster here. Because this is not a simple matter of keeping a machine functioning so it can continue to drive down the road; it is a matter of maintaining the integrity of a piece of equipment which can, hopefully, prevent sure death or debilitating injury.
Where does maintenance come into the picture? If you have a piece of equipment which is supposed to guard against deadly underride — if designed in a particular way (and that includes how it is attached to body of the truck), then it would need to be maintained in such a way that it would continue to provide that same strength.
Herein lies the problem. The current rear underride guards on existing trucks might do what they are supposed to in some collisions and successfully prevent underride. However, if the guards (and their attachments to the trucks) are not properly maintained in like-new condition, then their integrity will be compromised and their strength will be weakened. Underride will be even more likely to occur, and people will die as a result.
And this is the reality for the millions of existing large trucks on the road today. As far as I can see, from simple observation when driving on the highways, many of the rear underride guards are not being properly maintained. Of course, this will be important for the newer, stronger guards, too, as they begin to be installed on new trucks or retrofitted to existing trucks.