There’s a growing movement in U.S. cities to adopt a simple truck retrofit, one already in use in much of the world, which could potentially save the lives of thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians who share the roads with tractor trailers.
According to data from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, in about half of the fatal bike and truck accidents and one-fourth of those involving pedestrians and trucks, the person who is killed first makes contact with the side of the vehicle, typically because the vehicle is turning or an object like a car door propels the cyclist into the side of the truck. In those cases, the person’s body can fall under the truck and into the path of the truck’s rear wheels, with disastrous consequences.
Truck Side Guards Proven Effective
But truck side guards, a panel or set of metal bars running between the two sets of wheels, are designed to keep people from falling under the wheels. Side guards are a line of last defense for a cyclist or pedestrian, one some advocates compare to a seatbelt. They work by physically covering the space between front and rear wheels of heavy commercial trucks that have high ground clearance, shielding vulnerable road users from being swept beneath the truck’s rear wheels.
Side guards have been mandatory on most trucks in the United Kingdom and all trucks in the European Union since 1986 and 1989, respectively. Since enacting this mandate, the U.K. has seen a 61 percent drop in cyclist fatalities and 20 percent fewer pedestrian deaths in side-impact collisions with trucks.
U.S. Slow to Catch On
Despite success in other parts of the world, side guards have been slow to catch on in the U.S. In 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made an official recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require side guards on all new trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds, but no action has been taken thus far.
Michael Leizerman is a lawyer and highway safety advocate. He owns and runs the website TruckAccidents.com.
Michael Jay Leizerman is the managing partner at EJ Leizerman & Associates, LLC, Toledo, OH. He is a frequent lecturer who teaches other attorneys how to handle truck accident cases across the country.