A tractor trailer or commercial truck can travel up to one hundred thousand miles or more on the nation’s highways per year. A common emergency situation for a truck driver is a tire blow-out. The most dangerous type of tire blow-out is when a “steer tire” blows out. When that happens, a truck driver has about 2 seconds to follow the proper steps to keep the 40 ton truck under control and to slowly get off the highway.
There have been many calls by consumer groups for increased truck driver training to reduce fatal accidents. Those calls have largely fallen on deaf ears at the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration. According to experienced truck drivers, a truck driver has about 2 seconds to react when a steer tire blows out. A tire blow-out may come at any second while the truck driver is reaching for a drink, talking on the CB or cell phone, or looking at a passing vehicle. In those 2 seconds, the driver has to (1) keep his head and not react wildly; (2) grip the steering wheel firmly; (3) stay off the brakes and in fact, do the opposite because when driving the primary force of the truck is forward force and when there is a blow-out there is going to be a substantial amount of sideways force and braking just increases that sideways force; and (4) the driver needs to increase the forward speed which means to accelerate because that compensates for the increased sideways force and will minimize the weight on the blown tire and decrease the dragging effect. After all this is done in the approximately 2 seconds, the driver then can slowly back off the accelerator and start easing toward the side of the road.
Finally, when getting off the road, he needs to keep steering the truck smoothly and gently.
Many people suggest that once the truck is on the shoulder, it is best to coast to a stop without brakes. This is the method taught in most driver training programs and in most states’ commercial drivers license manuals. Some people think that if you brake at all, you should keep the pressure very light and constant.
This type of reaction in a panic situation, which most experienced drivers are know about, must be done as second nature. That is where increased training can play a significant role in reducing the potential for a catastrophic collision by a truck carrying a 40 ton load. Despite calls by many consumer groups for increased training, the Federal Motor Safety Carrier Administration has failed to act.