Four Reasons Why Trucks, Tire Ratings And Speed Are Forming A Dangerous Combination on US Highways
Two news stories recently pointed out a dangerous new factor in the U.S. trucking industry that could lead to blowouts, collisions or even death. Big-rig drivers are operating tractor-trailers at speeds greater than what their tires are rated for, San Diego news station 10 News.com reported.
Some states instituted higher speed limits without looking at truck tire maximums firstAn Associated Press story on this topic said that manufacturers build truck tires for a maximum sustained speed of 75 mph -- an industry standard established in the middle of the last decade, when speed limits across most of the United States were capped at 65 or 70 mph. However, that limit has been raised in some states. Unfortunately, 14 states now allow speeds of 75 to 80 mph; parts of Texas even have an 85-mph speed limit. The AP said some of these states, most of which lie west of the Mississippi River, established the newer speed limits without getting feedback from tire manufacturers first. (Our state, California, is not one of the 14. Here, the general maximum speed limit is 65, with the exception of some 70-mph segments -- and trucks cannot go more than 55 mph regardless.)
Never drive faster than your tire can flyHave you ever seen bumper stickers that say, "Never drive faster than your guardian angel can fly"? A better phrase would be, "Never drive faster than your tires' speed rating." Driving faster than the speed rated for the tire creates extra heat that breaks down its rubber, 10 News said, which can result in blowouts and accidents. The AP story quotes James Perham, president of a National City-based automobile hauler, saying the speed-limit problem is a recipe for disaster. His company, Extreme Transportation Corp., filed a complaint with regulators after their Michelin tires had seven blowouts and caused about $20,000 and $30,000 in damage to their trucks. Further, Michelin tires were at the center of a recently completed National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigation examining 16 blowouts involving Michelin's product, after a finding that truck drivers, and not the tires, were to blame. Both of these news items report the NHTSA investigator's conclusion -- that driving faster than the tire's rating of 75 mph was the most probable cause of the incidents -- which included three crashes but no injuries.
Scary NHTSA statistics link fatal accidents to tiresThe AP article references NHTSA stats that over 14,000 deadly collisions involving large trucks and buses occurred in the U.S. between 2009 through 2013, in which 16,000 people died. In 198 of the accidents, tires were found to be a contributing factor. During that same period, the number of people killed in truck tire-related accidents was 40 in 2009, and had gone up to 52 by 2013. Jassim & Associates has experience ligating on behalf of people who were injured in collisions with large trucks or vehicles here in San Diego. Any transport of goods for hire using vehicles in excess of certain weight minimums also falls under the trucking category, so this ligation is not just limited to 18-wheelers. Trucking and the carrying of interstate commercial transport goods for compensation involve many federal and state laws and regulations, including speed limits. And as the AP story notes, each state has authority to set its own speed limit.
Proposed government mandates requiring speed-limiting devices on trucks could take months or years for approvalSome trucking insiders and the NHTSA hope to see federal intervention on truck speeds. Trade group American Trucking Associations recommends trucks travel at 65 mph or lower, and has proposed a federal government requirement to place speed-limiting mechanisms on trucks. Devices that would stop trucks from going over their tire rating of 75 mph is the most effective way to reduce the danger, argues the NHTSA, and many companies already fit their 18-wheelers with such speed governors. An ATA spokesman said the amount of companies with the controlling device on some of their fleet is 69 percent. However, the AP notes it could take months or years for a government requirement to take effect, and for now, truck drivers will continue to speed -- putting themselves, other drivers, bikers and pedestrians in harm's way.