A recent article discussed an apparent disconnect between highway speed limits and vehicle safety standards. Many roads, including some in Texas, have newer speed limits that are said to be higher than the tires on some vehicles, especially tractor-trailer trucks, are designed to withstand. Safety advocates have stated that when a vehicle travels at a speed higher than its tires are designed to handle, it can become a recipe for catastrophe.
The president of an auto-hauling company on the west coast recently stated that when truckers repeatedly operate their rigs at higher speeds than their tires are made to safely travel, disaster can occur. Safety specialists explained that most tractor-trailer tires are designed with a maximum speed capacity of 75 mph. Some modern highways in Texas and across the nation have have posted speed limits of up to 85 mph.
Tires that are exposed to habitual travel at speeds that exceed the designed safety limits typically generate heat that causes damage to the rubber and places the tires at great risk for blowouts. The California auto-hauling company filed a recent complaint with regulators, stating that the current conditions have led to $20,000-$30,000 in rig damages for its company after tires have blown. Highway officials and leaders in the trucking industry are reportedly at odds about where the blame lies; some say the drivers themselves are at fault, and others claim that officials who set speed limits have not paid attention to tire safety regulations.
According to statistics, there were more than 14,000 fatal accidents in the nation between 2009 and 2013 that involved big trucks and buses. The National Highway Transportation Safety Administration listed 16,000 deaths in those crashes. Tires were said to be a leading cause in nearly 200 of the accidents and 223 of the fatalities.
Whether speed limits higher than 75 mph, such as those posted on some Texas roads, need to be lowered or tire makers need to design tires that are able to withstand higher rates of speed has not yet been decided. Persons who are injured in accidents involving trucks are permitted to file a claim in a civil court when another driver is believed to have been at fault. Some legal professionals have experience in truck accident cases and would be able to advise those considering litigation.
Source: statesman.com, “Big rigs on U.S. roads often drive faster than their tires can handle“, April 5, 2015