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Schumer: I-81 Is A Major Highway And Any Motorist Can Tell You That Big Rigs Can Veer Unexpectedly Putting Everyday Drivers At Risk For Accidents—Or Worse  

Senator Says Trucks Must Be Equipped With “Underride Guards” To Protect Drivers and Passengers on Roads and Highways; Urges Immediate Fed Action To Address Critical Gap in Truck Safety  

Schumer To Feds: Lack Of Safety "Underride Guards" On Trucks Is A Flashing Red Light

U.S. Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer joined families and members of the RB Lawrence Ambulance Company to call on the federal government to update and implement new truck safety standards by requiring trucks be equipped with energy-absorbing underride guards. Schumer said that the recent accident on I-81, which cost 4 lives, including 3 members of the RB Lawrence Ambulance Company, shows the urgent need to improve truck safety in order to better protect drivers and passengers involved in truck underride crashes. When these accidents occur, the vehicle can strike and travel underneath a truck bypassing the vehicle's built-in safety mechanisms. To address these catastrophic accidents, Schumer is calling for the federal government to update existing truck rear underride guard standards, require trucks be equipped with side underride guards, and for new research into front underride guard standards. Schumer said the safety benefits of underride guards are proven and well-known and that these new safety requirements can help protect all New Yorkers on the road.

“Requiring trucks be equipped with underride guards is a proven technology that will save lives and make our roads safer,” said Senator Schumer.  “Most New Yorkers, especially those upstate, drive regularly, whether to get to work or to drop their kids off at school on roads where our truck safety standards are lacking and in need of improvement to fill critical gaps to adapt in new safety technology. “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.”

Underride crashes involving passenger motor vehicles striking and traveling underneath a truck or trailer are a significant public safety threat. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has found that hundreds of preventable fatalities and life-threatening injuries have occurred as a result of underride crashes, and the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) has recommended the installation of rear, side and front underride guards to improve safety.

Schumer is specifically calling for three critical safety improvements:

  1. Update the truck rear underride guard standard. The current standards for rear underride guards are outdated dated and do not work as effectively with modern vehicles now equipped with crumple zones and airbag deployment sensors. 
  2. 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
  3. Study truck front underride guards. Research should be conducted to establish the most effective approach front underride guard standards.

Since large trucks typically sit far higher than passenger vehicles, underride guards along the rear and sides of the truck can help prevent vehicles from going underneath the truck in an accident and in many instances can make the accidents that do occur far less devastating. While some trucks are already equipped with this technology, many are not and that's why Schumer is calling for quick action on a federal standard. 

Schumer said the I-81 crash which cost four lives, was the result of two separate cars traveling under a jack-knifed milk tanker which had swerved to avoid a deer. The tanker was headed north, and when the driver swerved, the truck jack-knifed, causing it to take up both lanes of traffic. Two cars, one after the other, slammed into the side of the trailer and traveled under the truck trailer. All four people – a doctor and three workers from RB Lawrence Ambulance in St. Lawrence County –were killed. The lack of side underride guards allowed the cars under the truck. Schumer said if the truck had side underride guards, the drivers and passengers in the vehicle could have been better protected.

Schumer was joined by Ann Smith, Regional EMS Chair of Fort Drum Regional Health Planning Organization, members of the RB Lawrence Ambulance Company, and family members of Cory Moore and Gregg Williams. 

“Truck underride crashes are catastrophic but they can be prevented.  Trucks are higher off the ground than cars.  In a collision, a passenger vehicle can run underneath a truck or trailer, with the truck acting like a guillotine and shearing off or crushing the car's passenger compartment causing violent death and devastating injuries. The safety community commends Senator Schumer’s leadership in calling for swift action on an underride guard requirement to improve safety on our roads,” Jackie Gillan, President of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

Schumer said the horrific I-81 crash is yet another painful reminder that truck safety standards in this country must be improved. Schumer vowed to explore action and legislation that would accomplish improvements to truck safety so that other families would be saved from the loss of a loved one from a trucking accident.  Schumer said that the federal government must do all that it can to ensure that when New Yorker’s get behind the wheel – to school, work, and around the state – they and those they carry with them are safe from danger.