How many times have you been driving on the highway and been passed by a Tractor Trailer that was going 75-80+ mph? It probably happens more frequently than you think. Why should you care? Well, beyond the obvious dangers presented by a truck moving at that speed, there is a hidden danger as well – and it comes from the truck’s tires.
Many, if not most, heavy truck tires are designed for a maximum sustained speed of 75 mph. Driving a tire above its rated speed is a recipe for disaster, as the heat generated can cause the tire to break down and fail. Excessive speed has been linked to many blow outs and crashes. According to data maintained by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), between 2009 and 2013 there were over 14,000 crashes in the United States which involved heavy trucks and buses, resulting in nearly 16,000 deaths. Tire failure was a reported factor in 198 of those crashes.
The trucking industry has complained that, in some instances, blowouts are related to manufacturing problems, citing a high volume of instances with certain tire brands/modes. However, investigations conducted by NHTSA into such complaints (concerning certain Michelin tires) revealed that the most likely cause in each instance was “driver error” – that is, drivers pushing the tires beyond their speed rating.
Some in the trucking industry argue that the problem is larger than simply “driver error,” as some 14 states currently have speed limits of 75 mph or higher (85 is permissible in some parts of Texas). However, the simple fact that the law permits travel at a specific speed does not mean it is safe for everyone to do so. A responsible trucker knows the limits of his/her equipment and takes care not to exceed those limits.