“Many tractor-trailers on the nation’s roads are driven faster than the 75 mph their tires are designed to handle; a practice that has been linked to wrecks and blowouts but has largely escaped the attention of highway officials,” according to a recent Associated Press article.
Nearly all truck tires have been built for a maximum sustained speed of 75 mph since the middle of last decade, when drivers across the vast majority of the U.S. were allowed to go no faster than 65 or 70 mph.
The maximum posted speed limit for trucks in Illinois is 70 mph. In Indiana, it’s 65 mph.
Captain Dave Bursten of the Indiana State Police tells us that last year in the Indiana State Police District, which includes Jasper, Lake, LaPorte, Newton, Porter, Pulaski, and Starke counties, there were 904 collisions involving big trucks. Most of them resulted in property damage. Of the 190 total injuries reported, 18 resulted in an incapacitating injury and even 10 people were killed.
From 2009 through 2013, there were just over 14,000 fatal crashes in the U.S. involving heavy trucks and buses.
Tires were a factor in 198 of those crashes and 223 deaths. It’s hard to discern how many of these crashes were caused by high speeds. There are other reasons for tire failure, including under-inflation and heavy loads. Still, we know that truckers can be guilty of speeding, just like anyone else.
Some states are unaware of the maximum speed recommendations for tires. There are 14 states that now let trucks travel 75 mph or more. Three allow 80 or higher — Texas, Utah and Wyoming. South Dakota is about to raise its truck speed limit to 80, and three more states — Missouri, Nevada and Washington — may go to 75 or higher.
Tire and trucking industry groups blame the states for allowing unsafe speeds, though they say drivers should be aware of tire limitations.
Safety advocates and tire experts say that habitually driving faster than a tire’s rated speed can generate excessive heat that damages the rubber, with potentially catastrophic results.
“It’s a recipe for disaster,” said James Perham, president of Extreme Transportation Corp., an automobile-hauling company near San Diego that filed a complaint with regulators about Michelin tires after seven blowouts that caused an estimated $20,000 to $30,000 in damage to its rigs.
The NHTSA contends the most effective way to attack the problem is a regulation to require devices that would prevent trucks from going over 75 mph. The good news is that about 69% of big trucks already have those devices.
For now, though, many truck drivers keep driving at high speeds — legally and illegally.
Bottom line: Big trucks can cause big accidents. If you are a victim of a truck accident that was caused by the negligence of another, call Theodoros & Rooth immediately.
It is very common for trucking company insurance companies to spare no cost in court to limit their liability to reduce the amount of any settlement. Don’t go up against them alone.
Theodoros & Rooth has over 110 years combined experience in handling serious motor vehicle accidents. Call us for a free consultation. If you have a case, we will pursue it aggressively. Every initial consultation is free, and you pay nothing until we win.
Sources include: National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, Insurance Institute for Highway Safety, Governors Highway Safety Association, state transportation departments.