Congressmen Cohen and DeSaulnier and Senators Gillibrand and Rubio Introduce Bipartisan Legislation to Prevent “Underride” Accidents Involving Tractor-Trailers

March 4, 2021
Press Release
Measures would require effective guards on front, sides and rear of truck trailers to prevent cars from sliding under them

WASHINGTON – Congressmen Steve Cohen (TN-09) and Mark DeSaulnier (CA-11) and Senators Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Marco Rubio of Florida today planned to reintroduce bipartisan legislation to strengthen safety measures to prevent deadly underride accidents involving tractor-trailers and straight trucks. The bipartisan Stop Underrides Act would require underride guards on the sides and front of all new trucks and update outdated standards for underride guards on the rear of trucks. Because of a last-minute change in the House schedule, the House version of the measure will be introduced on Monday.

 

An underride crash occurs when a car slides under a large truck, such as a semi-trailer, during an accident. When these accidents happen, a car’s safety features are rendered useless because most of the car slides under the trailer and the trailer undercarriage crashes straight through the windows and into the passengers. The passengers in the car often suffer severe head and neck injuries, including decapitation. These accidents are often fatal, even at low speeds. More than 6,000 people died from underride accidents between the years of 1994 and 2018, but this data is estimated to be undercounted due to differences in local police reporting.  

Studies and pilot programs show that a simple barrier attached to the lower area of a truck, called an “underride guard,” would help prevent a car from sliding underneath a truck in an accident. Under current federal law, underride guards are not required to be on the sides or front of a truck. Underride guards are already required for the back of a truck, but current standards are weak and outdated. 

Congressman Cohen made the following statement:

“The Stop Underrides Act would help prevent these terrible and all-too-often fatal truck-trailer accidents by ensuring that cars can no longer slide underneath trucks. I’m reminded of the death of Michael Higginbotham, who was killed in an underride crash in Memphis and whose parents, Randy and Laurie Higginbotham, have been urging Congress to take action on this long-overdue issue. By strengthening outdated requirements and requiring new trucks to be equipped with adequate rear, side and front guards, our bill will help save lives and avoid horrific injuries.”

Senator Gillibrand made the following statement:

“This bill would finally enact critical, commonsense changes that would save lives on our roads. Requiring effective truck underride guards is one of the best and easiest solutions to prevent horrific underride accidents and protect passengers from being killed when a car collides with a tractor-trailer. I’m proud to introduce the bipartisan Stop Underrides Act and I urge all of my colleagues to join us in passing this important bill.”

Congressman DeSaulnier made the following statement:

“With over 300 lives lost each year, truck underride collisions are among the deadliest accidents on the road. We can and should be doing more to make commonsense safety improvements. I am proud to join Senator Gillibrand and Congressman Cohen in reintroducing this legislation, which will help save lives. I am also especially grateful for the tireless efforts of Marianne Karth and Lois Durso, who each lost children in truck underride collisions. We work in their honor to make sure no other family is forced to experience the kind of loss they have had to endure.”

Senator Rubio made the following statement:

“Hundreds of individuals across the nation are lost to underride collisions every year, with Florida unfortunately ranking among the top states for reported fatalities. As a parent with kids of driving age, I look forward to working in a bipartisan fashion to advance efforts to make our roads safer. I am proud to join my Senate colleagues in reintroducing this legislation that would help save lives.”


Support for the Stop Underrides Act:

“We are thankful for the legislators who have already stepped up to the plate to cosponsor this bill that will end a decades-old public health and traffic safety problem. Thousands of lives have been lost as a result of truck underride. Countless more will die unless the motoring public is protected from this kind of crash. It is the duty of the government to protect its citizens. If Congress is unwilling to protect their constituents from death by underride, who will?” said Marianne Karth and Lois Durso, Stop Underrides Advocates.

“As members of the law enforcement community who proactively inspect commercial motor vehicles for safe mechanical fitness during roadside safety inspections, CVSA member jurisdictions know the importance of taking steps to reduce fatalities and serious injuries on our nation’s roadways,” said CVSA Executive Director Collin Mooney. “If passed, the Stop Underrides Act will help mitigate the severity of underride crashes and make our roadways safer.”

“I am so thankful to my Congressman, Steve Cohen, and Senators Gillibrand, Rubio, and Burr for reintroducing the Stop Underrides Act. This bill will help improve underride protections on trucks to prevent the types of crashes that killed my son Michael,” said Laurie Higginbotham, a board member of the Institute for Safer Trucking, a nonprofit focused on improving truck safety through data-based solutions. “Truck underride crashes render safety features in our cars useless because of the height difference between the rear or side of a truck and our smaller vehicles. The Stop Underrides Act addresses this fatal design flaw by requiring side guards and improving the standards for rear guards on new trailers and single unit trucks.”

“In 1983, my dad, James Mooney, was killed when his car slid underneath the side of a tractor-trailer illegally parked across a dark rural road. He didn’t have a chance.  When a smaller car travels under a truck the consequences are devastating frequently causing a gruesome death or inflicting grisly injuries.  For over 37 years, I have dedicated my life to preventing underride crashes by supporting overdue action by the U.S. Department of Transportation to issue federal safety standards requiring effective underride guards on trucks.  Today that changes with the introduction of the Stop Underrides Act. It directs agency rulemakings which will make trucks safer, protect motorists and spare families like mine the loss of a loved one. Too many people are needlessly dying in underride crashes and too little progress has been made to stop these tragedies when solutions are available. On behalf of the Truck Safety Coalition's families and supporters, we commend all of the Senate and House sponsors including Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Richard Burr (R-NC), Rep. Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Rep. Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA),” said Jennifer Tierney, board member of Citizens for Reliable and Safe Highways (CRASH).

Cathy Chase, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety (Advocates) said, “While the death of Jayne Mansfield in an underride truck crash spurred federal action on rear underride guards more than 50 years ago, it has not been updated since 1996.  Thousands of tragic, preventable deaths and injuries are occurring in the wake of this dereliction of responsibility by the federal government.  Today’s introduction of the Stop Underrides Act by Senators Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY), Marco Rubio (R-FL) and Richard Burr (R-NC) along with Representatives Steve Cohen (D-TN) and Mark DeSaulnier (D-CA) would right this wrong by requiring the U.S. Department of Transportation to strengthen the current rear guard standard and require side and front underride guards.  We urge Congress to swiftly advance this lifesaving legislation.  With each passing day that protective underride guards aren’t on trucks, every motorist driving near one is in potential peril.”

In addition to requiring underride guards on the sides and front of a truck and updating the outdated standards for underride guards on the back of trucks, this legislation would also ensure that the annual inspection for all large trucks includes underride guards as part of the inspection and would require the Department of Transportation to review underride standards periodically to evaluate the need for changes in response to advancements in technology.

The measure is cosponsored by the following House members: Adriano Espaillat (NY-13), Alcee L. Hastings (FL-20), André Carson (-IN-7), Ayanna Pressley (MA-7), Bill Keating (MA-9), Bonnie Watson Coleman (NJ-12), C.A. Dutch Ruppersberger (MD-2), Chellie Pingree (ME-1), Dan Kildee (MI-5), David Price (MI-5), Dina Titus (NV-1), Donald M. Payne, Jr. (NJ-10), Grace Meng (NY-6), Gwen Moore (WI-4), Jan Schakowsky (IL-9), Jesús G. “Chuy” García (IL-4), John Garamendi (CA-3), Salud Carbajal (CA-24)

The legislation is cosponsored in the Senate by U.S. Senators Richard Blumenthal (D-CT), Richard Burr (R-NC), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), Angus King (I-ME), Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), Ron Wyden (D-OR), Ed Markey (D-MA), Ben Ray Luján (D-NM), Bob Casey (D-PA), and Jeff Merkley (D-OR).

###