The Hidden History of Underride Crashes: A Grave Threat to Public Safety

In this part of the world, big commercial trucks are a common sight. They transport goods across borders, and unfortunately, they also pose a significant danger on the roads. An article by ProPublica describes Marcos, an unfortunate victim, who encountered the devastating consequences firsthand when his car collided with a large truck, resulting in a tragic loss of life. This incident, although shocking, is not an isolated case. Underride crashes, where a smaller vehicle slides beneath a larger commercial truck, claim the lives of hundreds of Americans every year. This blog post delves into the disturbing history of government inaction and industry resistance when it comes to addressing the hazards of underride collisions.

Decades of Delay:

The federal government has been aware of the issue of underride crashes for over five decades. Reports from ProPublica and FRONTLINE reveal a troubling pattern of government inaction and disregard for public safety. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), the primary roadway safety agency in the United States, consistently ignored scientific research and failed to implement necessary measures to mitigate underride crash hazards. Poor data collection efforts by NHTSA hindered their understanding of the scale of the problem, resulting in inaccurate reporting of underride collision fatalities.

Industry Influence and Government Paralysis:

Records indicate that NHTSA often succumbed to pressure from the trucking industry, which argued that implementing safety measures would be too expensive and detrimental to the American economy. For instance, during the 1980s, industry leaders claimed that equipping trucks with stronger rear underride guards would be financially burdensome. These guards, designed to prevent cars from sliding beneath the trailer during rear-end collisions, were estimated to cost an additional $127 each. The trucking industry’s resistance hindered progress and impeded the implementation of much-needed safety regulations.

Consequences of Inaction:

Underride crashes result in catastrophic injuries and fatalities, with victims often suffering from severe head injuries, broken bones, and crushing injuries. Passenger vehicles’ safety technologies, such as airbags and crumple zones, are rendered ineffective due to the height difference between large trucks and smaller vehicles. Tragically, truck drivers are rarely harmed in these collisions. Despite the alarming number of deaths caused by underride crashes, NHTSA officials and Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg declined to comment on the issue, leaving many questions unanswered.

The Role of the Trucking Industry:

The American Trucking Associations (ATA), representing major commercial haulers, historically opposed safety regulations aimed at improving rear underride guards. While they now support rear guard improvements, they continue to resist implementing side guards, which could prevent underride crashes like the one that claimed Marcos’ life. Citing inadequate research and potential costs, industry groups maintain that mandating side guards would be burdensome for businesses operating on thin profit margins.


Decades of government inaction and industry resistance have contributed to the loss of thousands of lives in underride crashes. Despite clear evidence and scientific research supporting the implementation of stronger and more effective rear and side guards, progress has been slow and insufficient. It is imperative that both government agencies and industry stakeholders prioritize public safety over financial considerations. Stricter regulations and improved safety standards are needed to prevent future tragedies and protect lives on the roads. If you or a loved one have been injured in an accident, contact OnderLaw today for your free, no-obligation consultation.