Volpe, The National Transportation Systems Center reports that nearly half of bicyclists and one quarter of pedestrians who are killed by a large truck first impact the side of the truck. During a crash with a large truck that has high ground clearance, pedestrians, bicyclists, and other vulnerable road users can fall into the space between the front and rear wheels and suffer often-fatal crushing injuries. Truck side guards are vehicle-based safety devices that physically cover that exposed space, shielding road users from being swept underneath the wheels.

Volpe’s review of side guard design and crash outcomes in countries requiring these safety devices indicates that the safety effectiveness of sideguards is well established. For example, following a mandate requiring truck side guards in the United Kingdom, studies showed that there was a 61 percent drop in cyclist fatalities and a 20 percent drop in pedestrian fatalities related to side-impact collisions with trucks.

Volpe is advancing side guard safety technology in the United States by conducting research and partnering with cities in safety initiatives. For example, Volpe has partnered with the New York City to develop recommendations for implementing large truck side underride protection as part of the landmark Vision Zero program.

Vison Zero is an inter-agency plan to eliminate traffic fatalities in NYC. Approximately 4,000 New Yorkers are seriously injured and 250 killed each year in traffic crashes, rivaling the city’s annual homicide count.

Among many other initiatives, Vision Zero charges the Department of Citywide Administrative Services (DCAS) with recommending safety related devices and designs, such as high visibility vehicles, back-up cameras, and rear wheel side guards for city vehicles and other vehicles under city regulation. After the agency recommended side guards, 240 city trucks had side guards installed in 2015. Thereafter, legislation was passed requiring side guards in 10,000 vehicles by 2024. Progress continues, along with testing of the effectiveness of the side guards.

Boston passed a truck side guard ordinance in 2015. The ordinance applies to motor vehicles weighing over 10,000 pounds and semi-trailers with a total weight exceeding 26,000 pounds. Reportedly the first ordinance of its kind in the United States, it requires city agencies to contract only with vendors that have properly installed side guards and other specified safety devices.

Progress continues in the United States to implement safety features including truck side guards to increase protection of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorcyclists from side-impact, often deadly, crashes with large trucks.