Report: Trailer under-ride guards inadequate

Jason Cannon

March 14, 2013

CF11020_10Many trailer manufacturers are building units with rear under-ride guards that still allow cars going as slow as 35 mph to slide under the trucks in crashes, a recent study has found.

Research from the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety tested under-ride guards from the industry’s eight largest trailer manufacturers.

David Zuby, the institute’s chief research officer, said the pool represents about 80 percent of all manufacturers.

USA Today reported the agency recently completed an in-depth field analysis of two years’ worth of fatal under-ride crashes with the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute, and in a series of three progressively tougher crash tests, IIHS engineers crashed a 2010 Chevrolet Malibu going 35 mph into a parked truck equipped with guards that met both U.S. and even tougher Canadian standards.

trailersUnder the Canadian regulation, a guard must withstand about twice as much force as required by the U.S. rule at the point where it attaches to its vertical support.

The 2010 Malibu was an IIHS Top Safety Pick car.

All eight guards prevented under-ride in the first test, which was a direct rear-end collision.

All but one of the trailers passed the second test in which only half the width of the car overlapped with the rear end of the trailer.

When only approximately 30 percent of the Malibu’s front end struck the trailer in the third test, the newspaper reported every trailer except one failed.

The only unit that passed all three tests was a trailer from Canadian manufacturer Manac, which sells dry van trailers under the Trailmobile brand in the U.S.

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Zuby said the devil was in the details when it came to passing the final test. Manac’s guard was mostly similar to the others tested but reinforced attachment points and vertical supports mounted closer to the trailer’s edge proved to be the difference.

“Our tests suggest that meeting the stronger Canadian standard is a good first step, but Manac shows it’s possible to go much further,” Zuby adds.

The Malibu and the dummy inside it not only fared better, but the Manac trailer also had damage estimates among the lowest of all the trailers, requiring only a replacement under-ride guard.

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