Underride wrecks occur when a passenger vehicle crashes into the rear or side of a commercial truck and slides under it due to speed and velocity. As a CDL driver, you’re already aware of these dangerous accidents. Your truck is equipped with a rear underrun protection system, commonly known as a Mansfield bar after the death of Jayne Mansfield.
Recent research suggests these accidents may be more common than once believed. This piece explores underride accident prevention and its possible effects on commercial truck insurance.
Underride Wreck Statistics Are Changing
As of 2021 — the most recent year for which data is available — underride accidents involving private passenger autos and commercial trucks resulted in 400 documented fatalities in the US. And remember, 2021 was a pandemic year with very little private traffic on the roads.
In the spring of 2023, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) stated their underride crash data is lacking and admitted the industry must do more to prevent underride wrecks. Researchers are looking into the possibility of sidebars, similar to rear Mansfield bars, to avoid these dangerous accidents.
How New Underride Crash Data May Affect the Commercial Trucking Industry
Research is still underway, and it may take a few years for data to be collected and analyzed. But independent operators and fleet managers should be aware of changes on the horizon.
Assuming the data proves injuries and fatalities to be more common than previously reported, we can expect to see:
- More safety regulations regarding the installation of sidebars on big rigs
- Small-to-moderate expenses for the installation of sidebars on all trucks (depending on the size of your fleet)
- More steps involved in a driver’s safety inspections
- A longer wait at weigh stations
- Longer inspection times at border crossings in states like Texas
- Increased fuel consumption, as these bars add weight and drag to your rig
Many drivers are reluctant to add new sidebars to their trucks. Still, if they prevent enough fatalities, we can expect them in the future.
Will New Side Bars on Big Rigs Work?
The jury is still out on this point. For sidebars to be effective, they must withstand the impact of a passenger vehicle traveling at speed. There are so many variables the data will take a while to collect. For instance, the damage caused by a 2,000 lb vehicle traveling at 55 mph differs from that caused by a 6,000 lb electric vehicle traveling at 70 mph.
Then, there are the truck details to consider. Is the big rig fully loaded? Is it parked, idling along or moving at speed?
Ultimately, new sidebars must be extremely tough and perhaps slightly flexible.
How Side Bars Could Affect Your Commercial Truck Insurance Prices
Commercial truck insurance exists to protect drivers, owner-operators, transportation and the public financially. Human life is priceless, and that’s why truck accidents involving fatalities are so expensive. One law firm suggests the average settlement after an accident with a big rig is $73,000, while accidents involving fatalities can cost an insurer millions of dollars, depending on the unique details of the case.
From the truck insurance company’s perspective, any reduction in injuries, fatalities, or property damage is a good thing, both ethically and financially. Fewer claims and lower claims costs could ultimately decrease commercial truck insurance premiums for everyone.
Learn More About Commercial Truck Insurance with Us
At J.E.B. Insurance Services, we are big rig insurance experts. Our clients include fleet managers, logistics organizations, hot shot truckers and owner-operators. We provide commercial truck insurance in:
- North Carolina
- South Carolina
- And Tennessee