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Truck accidents: Speed safety limitations for tires often ignored

State officials and company owners in Missouri and other states where 18-wheelers form part of their fleets seem -- in many cases -- to be unaware of the limitations related to tires and safe traveling speeds. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) reported that 223 people lost their lives between 2009 and 2013 in truck accidents where tires were a factor. Tractor-trailer tires are built to be safe at maximum speeds of 75 mph.

Tire manufacturers say regular driving at speeds higher than the safety rating of the tires causes excessive heat generation that damages the rubber. This can cause blowouts, and the consequences are often catastrophic. The NHTSA recently completed an investigation into the high rate of blowouts involving a particular brand of tires. Excessive speed was found to be the reason for all 16 cases examined, and the investigator determined that, rather than tire defects, the truck operators were to blame in all those cases.

While the speed limit for large trucks in most states is 65 to 75 mph, some states have increased that limit to 80 mph and above. When questioned about these decisions in relation to safety, most authorities said they were not aware of the tire safety ratings for large trucks. NHTSA is apparently considering a rule to have maximum speed printed on the sidewalls of the tires of large trucks to ensure that drivers are aware of the safety ratings.

It is said that blowouts on trucks will be limited if appropriate rates of speed are maintained. Missouri truck accidents commonly leave drivers and passengers of both the trucks and any other vehicles involved with catastrophic injuries or worse. If such an accident was caused by a negligent operator, the driver along with his or her employer and any separate owner of the truck might be held financially responsible in any civil claims that may follow.

Source: santacruzsentinel.com, "Big rigs often go faster than tires can handle", Tom Krisher, March 31, 2015

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