Side Guards and Fake Side Skirts

Dated material from 1985.

President Bill Clinton updated Ronald Reagan’s Executive orders establishing cost-benefit analysis with Executive Order 12866. These orders limiting corporate costs of safety regulations have made it almost impossible to pass effective government agency rules for over twenty years. We just finished a government rulemaking on rear underride guards, NHTSA wants to just legalize the guards already on the road as did the Clinton Administration twenty years ago. Studies could not find statistical improvement in lives saved by these guards. We estimate at least 6,000 extra Americans died because the administration blocked better guards that had been tested at higher speeds.

We now have New York City making a joke out of Vision Zero and world safety efforts. We have fought for twenty years for improved side and front guards to protect all road users including vulnerable road users such as bicyclists and pedestrians. Vision Zero states if you can save lives then you must do so. We have fought for Vision Zero regulatory safeguards to replace Clinton cost-benefit rules for twenty years to save thousands of lives. Destroying the meaning of Vision Zero and the meaning of side guards will cripple our efforts for national rules and regulations. Cost-benefit analysis has killed tens of thousands of Americans and given us corporate control of our government and portions of our economy. NYC has replaced the definition of side guards with the definition of side skirts, one saves only vulnerable road users and the other with sufficient strength is meant to protect all road users.

Total truck related fatalities in 2013 were 3,964. Only 338 were pedestrians and 78 were bicyclists or about 10.5% were vulnerable road users. 585 or 15% of total fatal crashes were to the side of the truck in cars in 2013. Most fatal victims die in crashes to the front of the truck. If we design side skirts that only save vulnerable road users we will only save a small percentage of victims leaving most victims including many children to die in car crashes. Many of my friends lost their children in these crashes.

Vision Zero means stop killing the children! Even those unworthy souls in cars too! Work with us to save lives, not against us. Over a million Americans have been killed and injured in crashes with trucks. A bad law in America can kill tens or hundreds of thousands overseas as our regulations are copied or not exceeded around the globe. Easily, the Clinton guards in the last twenty years killed a hundred thousand extra souls around the world which would have been saved with available stronger rear guards.

84% of fatal victims of side underride are passengers in motor vehicles.

Victims have worked for over twenty years to achieve national side underride regulation in the U.S. for all road users, dividing political groups representing different road users defeats efforts for side guards regulations for trucks and trailers. Industry efforts to lobby for aerodynamic side skirts to replace side guards should not be financed by Federal Agencies and Municipal Cities.

Underride researcher and safety advocate Luis Otto has warned us about fake safety and fake underride guards, they are designed to convince the public that the danger of crashes into trucks has been removed and underride is no longer a political issue. They decrease driver concern and caution when driving around trucks.

VOLPE The National Transportation Systems Center Side Skirt Agenda outlined below:

Volpe has changed the definition of side guards in the U.S. by removing motor vehicles from the definition. – “Truck side guards are 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.”

Volpe is dividing the political coalitions for truck safety by pitting cyclists and pedestrians against motor vehicle passenger victims. – Volpe is advancing this technology’s 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.

Volpe is violating VISION ZERO by sacrificing saving lives of car occupants which are a vast majority of side underride victims. Cost savings to cities by moving to side skirts over underride guards are not worth killing crash victims.

Volpe must inform road users that side skirts are not underride guards and fooling the public and voters is not safety education, it is political propaganda. “While side skirts are primarily designed to reduce fuel consumption, this technology 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. Thus, a dual-purpose side guard/skirt may offer both vulnerable road user safety and fuel return on investment.”

Volpe violates NTSB recommendations by removing motor vehicles from side guard recommendations – The NTSB concludes that passenger vehicle occupant deaths and injuries resulting from side  underride  collisions  with  tractor-trailers  could  be  reduced  by  side  underride  protection systems. The  NTSB  recommends  that  NHTSA  require  that  newly  manufactured  trailers  with GVWRs over 10,000 pounds be equipped with side underride protection systems that will reduce underride and injuries to passenger vehicle occupants. The NTSB also recommends that NHTSA require  that  newly  manufactured  truck-tractors  with  GVWRs  over  26,000  pounds  be  equipped with side underride  protection  systems  that  will reduce  underride  and  injuries  to  passenger vehicle occupants.

Volpe correctly recommends and then fails to differentiate side skirts which they are recommending from underride guards which are designed to prevent underride of motor vehicles. –  “(It is important to differentiate lightweight VRU (Vulnerable Road User) side guards from the much heavier and stronger guards that would be necessary to protect car occupants, like those explored in a 2014 NHTSA UMTRI study.)

Volpe publication that leaves out motor vehicle crash victims and survivors. Boston Side Guards Infographic

NYC Streets Blog -The Simple Change to Truck Design That Can Save Lives

Collision Course: With Wary Eye on Big Trucks, Bike Riders Seek Safe Space on City Streets

We have cities passing ordinances requiring side guards on their local single-unit truck fleets. Unfortunately, they have removed cars from protection of side guards claiming side guards are only to protect VRU vulnerable road users. We disagree! Side guards can be built cheaply and with low-weight to protect cars in low-speed crashes and in the common side swipe changing lane type crashes where the car swerves under the truck.

Youtube side guard protecting car in crash.

Video below contains crash pictures that may alarm viewers.
Contains video provided by the Underride Network.




APROSYS – Strengthened pallet box shown to be
effective in low-speed side underride crash tests








APROSYS – Car on left crash tested into new improved pallet box

APROSYS – Demonstration of Truck Side Guard Improvements


Trucks now rolling with side underrun guards

The Simple Change to Truck Design That Can Save Lives

Will the Feds Step Up for Ped Safety and Close the Crossover Mirror Loophole?

National Research Council Truck Side Guard Study 2010-03-01 in PDF – Sideguards and convex mirrors for bikes and pedestrians in Canada


Beyond our demand for sideguards, we will work to mandate convex mirroring for all heavy vehicles, and mandatory cyclist interaction road training for everyone who holds a trucking license. SEE resources for great side guard and bike research papers.


NYC Begins Installing Truck Sideguards To Protect Pedestrians And Cyclists

London to ban lorries which have no protection for cyclists and pedestrians

Mandatory truck side guards urged in U.S.