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What Are Rear Impact Guards (RIGs) or Rear Underride Guards?

Two laws apply to rear impact guards (RIGs). The 1952 and after standard and the 1998 and after standard. We will discuss what’s legal, which trucks are exempt, and what are the requirements for those exempt trucks. They must have a bumper, right?

According to the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety (IIHS), ten percent of all highway fatalities involve large trucks. Since many of these large trucks sit up higher than most passenger cars, when a passenger vehicle hits the back of a tractor-trailer, they often go right up under the vehicle. These accidents frequently produce decapitation and death.

The 1952 & After Standard for RIGs

With the exception of the following vehicles:

  • Pulpwood trailers
  • Pole trailers
  • Truck tractors
  • Vehicles used in towaway operations

None of these trailers require shock-absorbing rear guards because the height of the low chassis and wheels back assemblies will not allow a car or other low-riding vehicle to under-ride its trailer. Passengers of low-riding vehicles under-ride a trailer without RIGs or rear underride guards.

Where the vertical distance from the rear bottom of the body is more than 30 inches off the ground when empty, it must be equipped with RIGs.

RIGs must meet the following specifications:

  • The bottom of the RIG does not leave more than 30 inches between it and the ground
  • When more than one bar gets used, the distance between bars cannot exceed two feet
  • The outermost horizontal member of the RIG shall not be more than 18 inches from the sides of the vehicle
  • The RIG must be positioned no more than 24 inches from the most rearward vehicle extremity

These rules apply to trucks and trailers manufactured after 31 December 1952, except those noted above and those manufactured after 26 January 1998.

The 1998 & After Standard for RIGs

Those vehicles manufactured after 26 January 1998 must meet the following standards, the exception for vehicles from 1952 got extended, but added low chassis, wheels back, and special purpose vehicles:

  • The outermost horizontal member of the RIG shall not be more than four inches from the sides of the vehicle/trailer and will not protrude past the sides of the vehicle.
  • The full distance of the horizontal bar or bumper will not exceed a height of 22 from member to ground, except where rounded corners may curve up to within 10 inches of the longitudinal plane.
  • The guard’s horizontal member shall not exceed one foot from the rear of the vehicle but may extend past the rear of the vehicle.
  • The horizontal member’s width must be a minimum 3.94 inches
  • Each RIG must contain a permanent label, which states manufacturer’s name and address, “Manufactured in __” the blank is the month and year of manufacture, and DOT affirming that the RIG meets or exceeds FMVSS No. 223.

Other than the energy-absorbing, properly labeled RIGs, exempt vehicles must still have an Interstate Commerce Commission “ICC bumper.” Many vehicles used to transport livestock such as the Wilson trailers are “wheels back” vehicles.

According to the IIHS, “Today the eight largest trailer manufacturers in North America have earned the award for good rear underride protection on some or all of their trailers.”

When you get ticketed for infractions of the CA Vehicle Code or FMCSA regulations, you need assistance from a traffic law professional you can trust.

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The 2018CA Commercial Driver Handbook .pdf

The Insurance Institute for Highway Safety article, All Major Trailer Makers Earn IIHS Award for Good Underride Protection article, Do Your Trailers Have Legal RIGs with Labels That Say So? article, Simple 'Bumpers' Still Needed on Exempt Trailers

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