Congress weighs legislation to require safety device beneath big trucks

Hundreds die each year in ‘underride' crashes

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Families of loved ones killed in crashes with trucks are finally getting the legislation they've pushed Congress to consider for years.

Lawmakers introduced a bill Tuesday that would require the installation of barriers beneath the front and side edges of heavy trucks. Federal law already requires rear guards on the back of trucks. 

Katie Strader's father died in July when his car hit and slid beneath a tractor-trailer.

"If my dad's accident was what was needed to prevent thousands of other accidents and lives being lost, then we're going to make sure that happens," said Strader, who was on Capitol Hill for the introduction of the Stop Underrides Act. 

The bill would require front and side guards on trucks heavier than 10,000 pounds and calls for stricter standards for rear guards.

An analysis of federal transportation data showed about 150 people dying each year in truck underride collisions, sometimes beheaded by the edge of a truck being the same height as a car's passenger compartment.

"There is a massive safety design flaw that makes collisions between cars and trucks much more deadly than they need to be," said Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., one of the bill's sponsors. An identical bill was introduced in the House of Representatives.

A test in August at the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety showed a metal side guard was able to prevent a sedan traveling at 40 mph from going beneath a truck when hitting it at a right angle. 

The trucking industry has opposed new rules for sideguards, concerned the heavy devices eat into a truck's weight limit and require trucks to make more trips.

Now that they have a bill, the grieving families planned to fan out on Capitol Hill to meet with senators and members of the House in an effort to make more truck underride protection a requirement by law.

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