Proposed Safety Device for 18 Wheeler Trucks

(see text below drawings)


18-wheeler Guard Rail - Very Rough Sketch Above, plus needs to be all the way around the entire truck. 

January 2006:  The solution to this may have already been implemented in European countries.  A visitor from Sweden told me about how they have succ

(Pardon the rough sketch, but hopefully the concept is clear.  Already the point has been made that it cannot be that close to the ground because of clearance reasons, however, the rail could be low enough to still meet even the smallest cars bumpers and thus hopefully prevent anyone from getting underneath the trailer.)

The thought of sliding under an 18 wheeler while traveling down the freeway is extremely unappealing to me. I can guess for you as well. Wouldn't it be nice for the truckers of America to add the equivalent of a guard rail on the side of their trucks. This way, you would just bounce off of the truck versus going underneath it and possibly having in excess of 50,000 pounds of whatever passing over your vehicle. The trailer is at about head level if you are in a car, and my friend Terry passed underneath the truck which had pulled across the road in front of her, nearly decapitating her and subsequently killing her. Above is a sketch I've prepared of what trucks currently look like and what I propose they look like. Having a guardrail on the side of trucks would alleviate any possibility of a vehicle traveling underneath it in an accident. The side rail would flip up, possibly with the assistance of hydraulic motors, to allow mechanics to change the tires in the event of a flat. The inconvenience would be substantially offset by the decrease in insurance rates a trucker would experience for installing this type of safety device and the cost for paying for someone's horrific death versus bouncing off of this guardrail. 


By HOLLY YAN / The Dallas Morning News 1-13-2006
Nekeisha Austin was starting anew with her 3-month-old son when their lives ended Wednesday on Interstate 35E.  Ms. Austin, 24, was finishing her last semester at Paul Quinn College and planning to attend medical school to become a pediatrician.  She and son Austin Lawton died in a five-vehicle crash near Interstate 20 on Wednesday evening.  A driver of a white pickup, 36-year-old Douglas Lamont Nelson of California, also died in the crash. The pileup apparently started when Ms. Austin's car rear-ended an 18-wheeler, said Detective Juan Carranza of the Dallas County Sheriff's Department. Investigators say speed or a close following distance may have contributed to the crash.  Ms. Austin's car and the 18-wheeler burst into flames.  Motorists in the rush-hour traffic had to react quickly.  "It appears the driver of the white pickup truck may have witnessed the accident and may have slowed down or stopped, and that's when a dump truck rear-ended that vehicle," Detective Carranza said.  A sport utility vehicle then crashed into the dump truck. The driver of the SUV was hospitalized in stable condition.  Ms. Austin's Honda Accord was burned and mangled beyond recognition.

18 Wheeler Rear Ends Pickup Truck, Killing Driver (see photo above) and killing a mother

and her infant daughter.  See Video of wreck above wreck - Shift-Click: View Video

In the above, with a low bumper on the 18 wheeler, he would have thrown the truck in the extreme, but he would not have drove over it. 


Comments Sent In:  I received a note the other day about this idea, and it was a good one and the kind I like.  It was a critical review of this idea that brought up a good suggestion - so if anyone else who views this page can think of something else about it to improve or correct it, please send it in.  This is one of those ideas you don't try and make money on, you just get it out there so hopefully it gets picked up.  Anyhow, any comments regarding this idea will be placed on this page.   Thanks.

Date: Sunday January 23, 2005
Time: 02:07:21 PM

Hi You have a nifty website. I was really looking for Police related items when I came across your guardrail for 18-wheelers. I drive over the road and I have seen a lot of nasty stuff out there. But I truly do not think that a guardrail type design would never come to be reality. Some of the problems would be railroad crossings. The trailer clearance would be so low that you could not cross 3/4 of the intersections of the country. I know how you feel about your friends death. But please don't let one dumb ass move by a trucker, affect your thoughts of the others. It is like 4-wheelers. Just because most of them cut in front of us and tailgate and every thing else you can imagine, some of them are nice. I appreciate your concern. Have a good day. Be safe out there.

Author:  Excellent thought.  I think the way around it being too low to the ground would be to have it come up about 18 inches from the ground if that would be enough.  That would still keep the average vehicle from getting underneath it while allowing enough room for clearance, covering both issues.

Date: Wednesday May 11, 2005
Time: 06:40:26 AM

Hello, I am a Driver of a Big truck.... I do want to say i am very sorry for those that have had loved ones who have passed by car Vs Big truck accident's. I do want to share in the Idea of the Truck Rail. #1- Great Idea. - But will not work.... We some times, more than others have to Dock into a Dock that is below level so this means that the rail its self would get us hung up. I do think the idea's great though!!!!! Everyday i deal with "Stupid" drivers who think that my "LOADED" 80,000 Pound truck can stop on a dime..... Not even close.... Lets put it this way... If I am doing 55MPH in my truck and some 4 Wheeler pulls out in front of me and the space between is 500 Feet... He or she's hurtin.... There is NO way to stop that truck that fast in fact, even a Full Football Field wouldn't give me enough time to save his or her life..... I would at that point have to "choose" who dies... Me or them... My heart goes out to the ones that have lost there loved ones, again... But Please... Respect us.. We are the ones that bring your Cloths, Water, food, and the things in which you use on a day to day basis. Even You're own CAR, has been in the back of a truck.... Watch out for us, because we try to watch out for you... "PUT" the cell phones down and pay attention... It just may save your life! I pull 53&48 Foot Trailers. My Total truck length is over 80 Feet Long. All the best and God bless Matthew

Date: Monday June 20, 2005
Time: 07:40:21 AM

A side rail could easily be adopted between the wheels of the trailer and power unit (truck) High enough off the ground to avoid underide situations using the same material and construction as the rear ICC bumper bar. Tool or storage boxes along the underside would also serve the same purpose if constructed properly, this would allow the operator to store dunnage etc safely and avoid fines for unsafe operation. Of course some lowbed and dropdeck trailers are low enough not require under-ride rails.  Trailer manufacturers should be responsible enough to adopt this for safety reasons, the shipper and or trucking companies should also join in and not gripe about the additional loss on freight due to additional trailer weight and the government should increase the gross weight of the vehicle from 80,000 pounds max to include the extra couple of hundred pounds for the under-ride rails. This would increase safety on our roads and loss of life due to under-rides. Henry

Author: Thanks Henry for the positive comments. 

Sunday July 03, 2005
02:36:45 AM


Sorry to hear about Terry, it is always a sad day to someone dies in a car wreck with a truck. I drive a flat bed truck. Your idea is a good one but there is problems with it, I a lot of times I go into constructions area where I need the high clearance. Maybe a box would help, but for this to happen, the truck driver can not make it happen. There are a lot of drivers who drive of a company and don't own their own trucks. They drive what they are told to drive. It would take legislation and companies who make the trailers to solve this problem. The added weight would also be a problem, most truck can only weigh 80,000 lbs max. The weight would have to go up to about 81,000 lbs, which would cause more fuel consumption. The guard rails would not work. The way it is drawn, the truck could not make turns and back up to docks. There is a law for trailers to have a "DOT" bumper in the back to keep low cars going under trailer from the back, maybe something like that. Also, low cars should be outlawed too and require cars to be so many inches above the ground. Don't forget, 3 wheeler are outlawed because they are dangerous. There goes the Corvette and cars like that, because no matter what you do, cars like the Corvette still can go under a truck. Cars and trucks have to share the road and safety on the road is everyone's responsibility. I have been driving for 3 years and yet to have a wreck. There are some dumb truck driver just like there are dumb 4 wheelers. I am not for the guard rail idea, but to have something there would be good, like a box as long as it is not to low. Remember without trucks moving, America Stops. td_perry57 at

Author: Thanks for your comments and insight.  The concept is rough but hopefully will get others thinking and considering possible solutions to this type of accident.  It sounds like the Swedes have already accomplished reductions in these types of accidents through a similar type of apparatus, basically keeping people out from under a truck (see photos and comments below.)   I sympathize with truckers as I know there are a lot of bad drivers out there and it doesn't make your jobs any easier.

Date: Saturday June 25, 2005
Time: 11:45:38 AM
Comments                    ROCK ON SWEDEN and thanks!!!!

Your idea is great and it will work in reality.  How do I know this?  Because in Europe were I live (Sweden to be exact) every trailer built after 1987 are built with side protectors. they are not as low as your picture but they work. I had a car that drove right in to it in a crossing and the car never got under my trailer. I have never had any problems with the guard rail and our  trucks are a lot longer then yours, 25.25 meters that is about 83 feet I think.  Lots of the European truckers use the space under the trailer for boxes that hold spare part, snow chains, etc. the box then have the same function as a guard rail. if you have any doubts about this check out any European truck site and you will see for your selves. good luck on your idea it will save lives!!

Author: Now that 's what I am talking about!"   Thanks for the great comment and the information - very helpful.  I will try and pull some information and photos of the trucks in Sweden and lets see what these brilliant Swedes have come up with!  (Photos posted shortly after this comment came in, below.)

Examples of Trucks Used in Sweden I was able to find and pull together here:





So none of us end up looking like this...


Note: This idea is dedicated to Terry Landry, a dear friend whose vehicle passed under an 18-wheeler truck while on her way home from work in Celina, Texas, in 1997. She suffered massive head injuries and the family pulled the plug on life support two days later at Parkland Memorial Hospital where she had been airlifted.  She left behind a 4 year old son. She was only 25. She was a very good friend. She had the best Elvis impersonation of any girl I ever met. She is missed by many, most of all by her little boy.  An 18-wheeler had pulled onto the road, and the driver got out to lock the gate behind him, leaving his rigs trailer fully across the road.  Terry came through and it was night and the trucks high beam lights were on, so all she could see was what appeared to be a truck coming at her.  She could not tell on this unlit 2 lane country road that the truck was stopped and the entire trailer was fully across the road.   I called my car the blues mobile and she liked it so much she bought it's twin, a Sunbird - I had a a 94 Cavalier.   She had it about 2 weeks when this happened.  Tragic.

Not the actual truck involved, the following sort of shows how it was when Terry was killed.  In her case it was on a straight road and the cab of the truck was coming at her perfectly as far as where the cab was, but the driver left the trucks entire trailer across the road while he ran back to lock a gate he just pulled through from the plant.  It was at night and his high beams were on, so I am sure she averted her eyes to the right because of the glare, plus no reflectors on the side of the trucks trailer. 

Now that's just wrong!  No idea how to solve this one?

Teens Killed over Lawnmower

Again, no hope for these guys - they stole a lawn mower and then ran from the police, right into the path of an 18 wheeler traveling at highway speed in their mini pickup.  Both teens were killed instantly, over a 300 dollar lawn mower.



Posted on Tue, Mar. 22, 2005 - Same wreck, different state, different victim

Deputies present during fatal crash

Paul Kelly died when his SUV hit the big rig as deputies were preparing to put flares out on the side that he hit.

The big-rig truck had been stuck across Highway 1 for nearly 20 minutes. Two sheriff's deputies set flares on one side of the semi, and were about to put them on the other, when local radio personality Paul Kelly drove up.

Apparently not seeing the truck, Kelly crashed his sport utility vehicle into the big rig, wedging it underneath.

Cambria Fire Chief Bob Putney, who arrived on the scene south of the town minutes after the crash, said it was clear Kelly didn't see the truck in time.

"There were no tire marks," he said. "He died on impact."

If Kelly had lingered a few moments more before driving home from Cambria to Pismo Beach early Sunday, he might have avoided the freak collision that took his life.

Instead, his southbound Ford Explorer slammed into a big rig along the straight stretch of Highway 1 just south of its intersection with Highway 46.

The truck became immobilized after making a U-turn and getting stuck in the mud on the east shoulder of the road. Several cars had successfully maneuvered around the big rig, said emergency responders.

"The trailer was obvious," Putney said. "It was white with white-and-red reflective tape all the way around the bottom."

He said the truck's lights were on and it may have had its flashing lights on as well.

CHP spokesman Dick Short said the investigation into the wreck is ongoing and will include a toxicology report on Kelly to determine if he was under the influence of alcohol or drugs.

Short expects that aspect of the investigation could take a week to 10 days to determine. He said fatal accident investigations take an average of 30 days.

The CHP officer on the scene did not cite the truck's driver, Shawn Bentley, 36, of Jacksonville, Texas, for the U-turn, and did not suspect him of being under the influence of alcohol or any drugs. The turn may have been legal, Short said.

"I don't think he's in violation of anything," he said Monday. "It does not relieve the other people driving to drive at a safe speed to stop for a hazard. ... Certainly, someone driving down the road at 1:49 in the morning should have seen and been able to react to that."

The accident report states that a light rain was falling. There was at least a quarter-mile of visibility, said those on the scene.

It was unclear Monday whether the deputies had been called to the scene to assist the truck driver or if they just happened upon the stuck rig while on patrol.

Once there, the deputies set out warning flares on the south side of the truck and were in the process of doing the same on the north side when they saw Kelly's SUV approaching, according to sheriff's spokesman Sgt. Sean Donahue.

"They signaled it with their flashlights," he said.

The deputies, who work graveyard shifts, could not be reached for comment Monday.

Kelly, 46, was the morning news anchor and news director for KVEC 920 AM. He had no family, according to colleagues; his parents and brother preceded him in death. There were no plans set yet for a memorial as of Monday, his co-workers said.

Kelly was not wearing a seatbelt at the time of the crash, according to the accident report filed by the CHP.

He had been at a private party at Hearst Ranch earlier in the evening, but that party ended by 10 p.m., said one attendee. Where Kelly was in the nearly four hours between the end of the party and the accident is not yet known.

According to emergency responders who were there minutes after the crash, Bentley, the truck driver, told them he was trying to get to Interstate 5 but made a wrong turn off Highway 101 in Paso Robles. He took the Highway 46 West turnoff on the south end of the city, instead of the 46 East exit on the north end.

Bentley is a driver with Swift Transportation Corp. Calls to the Phoenix-based company were not returned Monday afternoon.

Bentley told people on the scene that his truck was carrying 17,000 pounds of disposable diapers.

Staff writer Kathe Tanner also contributed to this story.

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