SCRANTON, LACKAWANNA COUNTY (WBRE/WYOU-TV) An effort is underway in Washington to mandate a new safety feature be installed on all tractor -trailers. It’s called a Safety Sidebar. Lead I-Team reporter Andy Mehalshick takes a closer look.
Those sidebars would prevent what’s called “underride crashes”. That’s when vehicles crash underneath the trailer. The proposal has sparked an intense debate among trucking companies, their drivers and those who share the highways with them
Safety experts say under ride crashes are becoming all too common around the country, cars and trucks ending up underneath trailers.
Hundreds of people are killed every year.
Many others badly injured–these images show just how violent these crashes can be. Air bags and seatbelts do not protect the driver or passengers.
Tractor trailers are required to have steel guards on the rear of the trailers but not on the side..
“I’m all for it 100 percent.” Said Bob Bolus
Bolus has been in the trucking business for 50 years..
“I believe they should be on all trucks and if you can’t afford to put them on they get off the highways you don’t belong in the trucking business.”
Bolus runs an interstate towing company and has seen firsthand under ride crashes.
“As a first responder and in towing we see people are not paying attention, they are distracted with a phone texting and they drift right underneath the trailer.” said Bolus.
Some trucking companies have installed plastic or wood “air flow guards” that are designed to improve the aero dynamics of the truck to save fuel.
But the sidebars would be made out of metal and prevent vehicles from going underneath the trailers.
Travis Jernigan is a truck driver from Tennessee. He and his father run three big rigs. He thinks the sidebar proposal will put smaller trucking companies, like his. out of business.
“I feel like the government is getting into the people business too much already. Let us out here to do our jobs. We will do it safely leave us alone.” Said Jernigan
Drivers we spoke to say cost should not be a factor when it comes to saving lives.
“I think anything that enhances safety on the roads is a good idea. I have not personally seen a car do that but certainly heard enough. I don’t think it’s a bad idea.” noted Paula Hensley of Virginia.
The trucking industry says it will fight the proposal arguing that the cost of adding these steel sidebars will force many companies.. Those costs range anywhere from 500 dollars to seral thousand dollar depending on the size and style of the trailer