U.S. Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Marco Rubio unveiled a bipartisan bill Tuesday to change truck safety standards, according to Syracuse.com.

Underrides, in theory, make the road safer

This bill is proposed to help prevent the kind of crashes that killed 4 people this summer on Interstate 81 in Oswego County, New York.

This law would require underride guards to be installed on the front and sides of tractor-trailers and other CMVs.

Gillibrand, D-N.Y., and Rubio, R-Fla. are main sponsors of this bill think that underride guards will make trucks safer and prevent other motorists from sliding under truck trailers. The goal of requiring underrides is to prevent severe neck and head injuries to motorists and passengers that crash into the side of the trailer.

“With so many unpredictable accidents on the road, underride guards are an easy solution for protecting people and preventing them from dying when a car collides with a truck,” Sen. Gillibrand said in a statement.

Sandy Creek crash kills four

This bill comes following a crash on July 5, 2017, in Oswego County town of Sandy Creek, New York. Four occupants of a passenger vehicle were killed when the car slid under a jackknifed milk truck.

The crash happened just before midnight on I-81 in Oswego County. According to New York State Police, 38-year-old truck driver Charles T. Howard III was traveling north on I-81 when he swerved to avoid several deer in the roadway. Howard lost control of the tanker and it jackknifed and came to a stop blocking both of the northbound lanes of the interstate.

Police say the two passenger vehicles behind the semi were unable to avoid the disabled tanker truck and crashed. Both vehicles went under the tanker during the crash. Click here to read the full story.

Stop Underrides Act of 2017

If this proposed bill were to be approved, it would require annual inspections to make sure the truck is in compliance with safety standards, and the underride guards are properly installed and maintained.

The U.S. Department of Transportation would be required to review the underride guard standards every five years, according to Sycracuse.com.

Similarly, New York Senator Chuck Schumer has issued a statement calling for immediate federal action to require “energy absorbing underride guards” on all semi trucks.

Schumer has asked the federal government to make three changes that he says will improve safety

  • Update the truck rear underride guard standard. The current standards for rear underride guards are outdated and do not work as effectively with modern vehicles now equipped with crumple zones and airbag deployment sensors.
  • Require trucks be equipped with side underride guards. Side underride guards are currently not required on trucks, but research has demonstrated considerable driver and passenger safety improvements with their addition.
  • Study truck front underride guards. Research should be conducted to establish the most effective approach front underride guard standards.

According to Schumer, “Drivers and passengers in this most recent crash could have been better protected if the truck was equipped with side underride guards. The devastation of crashes like these – a result of a gap in truck safety standards – could be reduced. The reality is installing underride guards on trucks can save lives, which is why I am calling on the federal government to immediately develop new safety standards for trucks. We need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make our roads as safe as possible.”

On Tuesday, Schumer said that he supports the bill being proposed by Gillibrand and Rubio. Further, a bill similar to this one is sponsored by Representatives Steve Cohen of Tennesee and Mark DeSaulnier of California.

Critics of bill say more underride guards won’t improve safety

Randy L. Lavalle, the owner of Lavelle Transportation Inc, says that underride guards will not greatly improve the safety of roads or the safety of driving near CMVs. He thinks that if a driver is going to hit an underride guard, and is traveling too fast to stop before a collision, that regardless of an underride guard the motorist will be seriously injured or killed.

“I don’t think these devices are going to do what they are anticipated to do,” he said.

He also thinks that forcing trucking companies across New York to install underride guards on all of their trucks will cost a significant amount of money. He says, installing guards on his 600 trailer fleet would cost significant amounts of money and other companies would not be willing to put forth that kind of funds unless backed by the federal government.

“We need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make our roads as safe as possible,” Sen. Schumer said.