While many of us like the increased highway speed limits found in Texas and many other states, unintended consequences could be playing a factor in fatal truck accidents. A trucking accident lawyer with Baron & Budd may be able to help by filing a lawsuit if you or someone close to you has been hurt or killed in this type of accident.
The Dallas Morning News published an article on March 31 reporting an investigation by the Associated Press into the safety of big rigs at high speeds. According to the article, tractor-trailer tires are not designed to travel more than 75 mph – even though speed limits in areas of Texas and several other states are 75 and 80 mph, and even 85 mph in some locations.
When a truck travels at that rate of speed for an extended amount of time, heat buildup can cause rubber damage that often leads to a blowout. And when this happens to a vehicle that weighs 80,000 pounds (the legal limit), disaster is often the result.
It would only seem natural, then, that states would not raise speed limits on highways if truck tires can’t handle it, right? Amazingly, the article reports that many state legislators did not talk to tire manufacturers before passing the higher speed limits. The vast majority of the tires used on today’s big rigs were designed about 10 years ago, when the most that anyone could drive on a highway was 65-70 mph.
The trucking industry and state officials are trading blame, but the bottom line is that truck accident fatalities due to tire malfunctions are happening at an alarming rate.
The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reports nearly 16,000 people died in accidents involving large trucks or buses from 2009-2013. Tires were a contributing factor in 198 fatal accidents that resulted in 223 deaths.
There are, of course, many reasons that a tire blowout occurs in addition to excessive speed, such as overweight loads, under-inflated tires, road debris and more. But speed is one of the factors that is most controllable; there is technology available that can limit how fast a truck can travel. While many trucking companies are responsible enough to install this equipment in their rigs, many others are not – until the federal government forces them to do so, they will very likely choose not to spend the money.
The article points out another solution, however. Manufacturers could simply make tires that can safely handle higher speeds. There are a few companies that produce tires built to withstand sustained driving at 81 mph that cost about the same as tires rated for 75 mph. However, a spokesman with the Rubber Manufacturers Association who was quoted in the article says manufacturers don’t want to make more of these higher-rated tires because they believe sales would not justify the costs of retooling and redesigning.
Unfortunately, until some sort of overall solution is reached, drivers will continue to be in danger. That truck sharing the road with you could be travelling faster than its tires can handle.