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Truck Tires Not Designed for High Speeds

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Posted on September 20, 2016

Tires that are used on tractor-trailers are typically designed to handle a maximum speed of 75 mph.  However, many of the tractor-trailers that are driven on highways across the country are being driven at speeds faster then they are able to handle, resulting in dangerous truck accident wrecks and tire blowouts.

For over 10 years, the majority of truck tires have been built to sustain a maximum speed of 75 mph since most U.S. states had speed limits of 65-70 mph. However, 14 states, including Texas, Wyoming, Utah and South Dakota, have increased their speed limits to 75, 80, and even 85 mph in parts of Texas. Experts say that driving faster than a tire’s rated speed on a regular basis can generate excessive heat that can damage the rubber and cause serious trucking accidents.

A study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) found that truck operators themselves, and not the actual tires, were at fault for blowouts involving certain Michelin tires. An investigator found that exceeding the 75 mph speed limit was most likely the cause of all 16 complaints that were studied. State officials and the tire and trucking industry cannot agree on who is responsible for causing the problem.   When over 16,000 people are killed in fatal truck accidents and bus crashes in four years, a solution to the issue is critical.

Speed Restricting Devices or New Tire Design

Currently, the NHTSA is recommending a device that prevents the trucks from going over 75 MPH, but cost analyses and government reviews have stalled the progress.  Another solution is to manufacture tires that can withstand higher speeds. But trucking companies are hesitant to redesign new tires fearing that sales will not justify the cost.

The American Trucking Association opposes speed limits over 65 mph and is in favor of installing speed-limiting devices in trucks. ATA Spokesman, Sean McNally, cited a 2007 survey done by the group which states that 69 percent of trucking companies already have these devices on a percentage of their trucks. Changes to current regulations could take years to go into effect. In the meantime, truckers continue to drive at high speeds, both legally and illegally.

Last October the NHTSA began investigating Michelin tires, the top selling truck tire manufacturer in the country, after receiving a number complaints about tire failures. As part of their investigation, the agency tested a number of trucks and drivers and found that more than half of those tested had overburdened tires due to heavy loads and/or low air pressure.

Moreover, the majority of drivers did not know the proper inflation pressure for their trucks. As a result, NHTSA is considering enacting a requirement that all truck tires include an indication of the maximum speed allowable.

When driven properly, truck tires are generally quite reliable and do not often result in devastating truck accidents. Trucks driven at excessive speeds, and a tractor trailer with low air pressure in its tires, are at an increased risk of a serious accident resulting in truck accident injuries.