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There’s a growing movement in U.S. cities to adopt a simple truck retrofit, one already in use in much of the world, which could potentially save the lives of thousands of bicyclists and pedestrians who share the roads with tractor trailers.

According to data from the John A. Volpe National Transportation Systems Center, in about half of the fatal bike and truck accidents and one-fourth of those involving pedestrians and trucks, the person who is killed first makes contact with the side of the vehicle, typically because the vehicle is turning or an object like a car door propels the cyclist into the side of the truck. In those cases, the person’s body can fall under the truck and into the path of the truck’s rear wheels, with disastrous consequences.

Truck Side Guards Proven Effective

But truck side guards, a panel or set of metal bars running between the two sets of wheels, are designed to keep people from falling under the wheels. Side guards are a line of last defense for a cyclist or pedestrian, one some advocates compare to a seatbelt. They work by physically covering the space between front and rear wheels of heavy commercial trucks that have high ground clearance, shielding vulnerable road users from being swept beneath the truck’s rear wheels.

Side guards have been mandatory on most trucks in the United Kingdom and all trucks in the European Union since 1986 and 1989, respectively. Since enacting this mandate, the U.K. has seen a 61 percent drop in cyclist fatalities and 20 percent fewer pedestrian deaths in side-impact collisions with trucks.

U.S. Slow to Catch On

Despite success in other parts of the world, side guards have been slow to catch on in the U.S. In 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) made an official recommendation to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to require side guards on all new trucks weighing over 10,000 pounds, but no action has been taken thus far.

Images Courtesy of Volpe Website

Michael Leizerman is a lawyer and highway safety advocate. He owns and runs the website 


  1. Gravatar for Jeannette Holman-Price
    Jeannette Holman-Price

    My daughter Jessica was killed in Montreal December 2015 under the wheels of a dump truck that very same night a few streets away another man was killed under the same circumstances my family have lobbied government and delivered research on the effectiveness and slowly these sideboards are being introduced. In the meantime people are dying because out governments fail to act to make the laws that will mandate their introduction

    1. Michael Leizerman

      Jeannette, I am moved by your unimaginable loss and your dedication. I just went to your website and see that you have been advocating for truck sideboard protection for over 10 years! I hope we see them on trucks soon so others don't have to experience what you have. Thank you for taking the time to respond to my post.

  2. Gravatar for Opus the Poet
    Opus the Poet

    These things not only prevent vulnerable user deaths and serious injury, they also save more than their costs in fuel savings, why do people resist installing them?

  3. Gravatar for Robert Martineau
    Robert Martineau

    Airflow Deflector produces truck side guards that are featured in the Volpe article. We are supplying side guards to many cities including New York, Boston, Orlando in the US. We believe that one crash that kills or injures a cyclist or pedestrian is one crash too many. Saving lives, one safer truck at a time.

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