Truck Side Guards Help To Save Lives

In a recent NBC news article highlighting the fact that 200 people are killed each year from side-underride crashes, calls for congress to act; requiring side guard safety devices be mandatory on all trucks as it is in other countries.

Research shows that truck side-guards – vehicle-based safety devices designed to keep pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from being run over by a large truck’s rear wheels in a side-impact collision are effective in reducing fatalities.

Volpe, the National Transportation Systems Center, is advancing side guard adoption in the United States by conducting research and partnering with cities to help deploy side guards and other technologies that address the deadliest road crashes: those between large trucks and pedestrians or bicyclists.They are also building a national network of early adopters in the area of truck side guards and other truck safety technologies related to pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists—known as vulnerable road users.

When there is a collision between a large truck and a pedestrian or bicyclist, the impact often happens on the side of the truck. Side guards help keep pedestrians and bicyclists from falling between the axles. After the UK enacted a national side guard requirement in the 1980’s, bicyclist fatalities decreased 61% and pedestrian fatalities decreased 20% for side impacts with large trucks.

Side Guard

How it works

During a crash with a truck that has high ground clearance, vulnerable road users can fall into the exposed space between the front and rear wheels and suffer fatal crushing injuries.

Side guards work by physically covering that exposed space, shielding vulnerable road users from being swept underneath the truck’s rear wheels.

Side guards can be retrofitted onto existing trucks or incorporated into new vehicle fleets.

Truck Side Guard close up

Improving Fuel Economy

In addition to helping to save lives during collisions, aerodynamic truck side skirts (or underbody fairings), which are similar to side guards are designed to decrease air drag which saves fuel for trucks. Side skirts can increase fuel economy b 4 to 7 percent. (verified by EPA SmartWay). Depending on mileage and speed, a long-haul tractor-trailer can see up to $5000 fuel savings annually by installing a rigid side skirt.

While side skirts are primarily designed to reduce fuel consumption, they may also protect vulnerable road users in side-impact collisions. Canadian and Dutch research suggest that certain side skirts may provide protection that’s comparable to that of side guards. So, a dual-purpose side guard/skirt may offer both vulnerable road user safety and fuel savings, which is a win-win.

truck aerodynamics