A devastating truck crash in New York that took the lives of four people has renewed calls for increased truck safety. Among the advocates calling for stronger safety measures in the trucking industry is U.S. Senator Charles Schumer, who called on federal regulators to require tractor-trailers be equipped with underride guards.

Four Dead in Sandy Creek Truck Crash

Four people in two vehicles died on July 5, 2017, when a milk tanker truck jack-knifed on I-81 near Sandy Creek, New York. The two vehicles carrying the four victims both slid underneath the tanker truck in what is known as an underride accident. The New York truck accident was initially caused when the milk tanker truck swerved to avoid a deer, but the jack-knifed vehicle wound up blocking both northbound lanes. Police said the drivers of the two vehicles could not have avoided hitting the large truck.

Victims in Tanker Truck Underride Accident Named

Three of the victims of the Sandy Creek truck crash were members of the RB Lawrence Ambulance Co., who were traveling to Canton from Syracuse. They were Corey E. Moore, 50, Gregg P. Williams, 58 and Roderick C. Cota, 63. Moon John Kim, 52, was traveling in a different vehicle and hit the milk tanker truck moments after the other victims.

Underride Crashes Deadly for Motorists

Underride crashes occur when smaller passenger vehicles collide with a large truck—such as a tractor-trailer or a tanker truck—and in the collision slide underneath either the back or side of the trailer. The smaller passenger vehicle can become stuck underneath the big rig and dragged by the larger vehicle. Occupants of the passenger vehicles usually suffer catastrophic injuries in underride crashes.

Underride guards—steel bars that absorb energy—on both the rear and side of the trailers have been shown to prevent underride accidents, potentially saving lives. Citing the National Transportation Safety Board, Schumer said that hundreds of fatalities each year would be prevented by updating truck safety requirements. But federal regulators have been slow to move on requiring side guards, putting the lives of motorists at risk.

Increased Truck Safety Measures Sought by Senator Charles Schumer

Following the Sandy Creek truck crash, Senator Charles Schumer called on regulators to take action on trucking safety, including updating the rear-guard requirements.

“Requiring trucks be equipped with underride guards is a proven technology that will save lives and make our roads safer,” Schumer said in a statement. “Drivers and passengers in this most recent crash could have been better protected if the truck was equipped with side underride guards. The devastation of crashes like these—a result of a gap in truck safety standards—could be reduced.”

Included in Schumer’s requested safety measures:

Update current standards regarding rear underride guards, which safety advocates view as outdated; require tractor-trailers to have side underride guards, which are not currently required;study truck front underride guards to determine the most effective method of preventing front underride crashes.

“The reality is installing underride guards on trucks can save lives, which is why I am calling on the federal government to immediately develop new safety standards for trucks,” Schumer said. “We need to make sure we’re doing everything possible to make our roads as safe as possible.”

Current Trucking Safety Measures Are Not Enough

Although trucks currently have rear underride guards, tests conducted by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS) recently found that many of the guards currently in use will not prevent an underride truck crash. Among the issues with current rear guards is that they can rust through, weakening them, and that the guards cannot withstand a crash at highway speeds— which is a factor in many underride crashes—or even at much slower speeds.

Furthermore, trucking companies can have rear guards approved simply by applying pressure to the guards, without proving they can withstand a high-speed accident.

Although the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has said it is committed to motorist safety and preventing underride accidents, critics say the administration has not done enough to push the trucking industry.

“If all trailers on the road had stronger guards, we would see fewer deaths, maybe no deaths, as a result of passenger cars going underneath a trailer or a truck,” said David Zuby, Chief Research Officer, IIHS.

For the victims of the Sandy Creek truck crash, any action on rear and side underride guards will be too late. However, strengthened underride truck crash prevention standards may not be too late for hundreds, or even thousands, of other motorists.