Tire blowouts are known to cause the most crashes on busy highways across the country. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, these occurrences impact over 11,000 truck drivers.
So, why are tire blowouts dangerous? I am not with any commercial truck driving program providing effective training to prepare a driver for a tire blowout. The problem becomes that with any tire blowout, such will limit a commercial driver’s ability to successfully maintain control of a truck. It is quite obvious the main issue following a tire blowout is the instability of the truck. Without stability, even a seasoned truck driver can very easily lose the ability to steer a truck in the proper direction. As a result, prevention is the best defense for a truck driver and those companies that hire those drivers.
So, when a catastrophic crash occurs because of a tire blowout, what do I look for if someone hires me to investigate the occurrence?
First, poor maintenance. Like anything else, if a tire does not receive proper maintenance, it will slowly degrade. In terms of basic tire maintenance, the most important thing a truck driver must check is the air pressure. If too much air is in a tire, the treads will break down faster. An under-inflated tire causes wear and tear to develop quicker along its sidewalls. Balance is the key, and a truck driver can find it by testing every tire regularly with a pressure gauge.
Second, was the trailer overloaded? Obviously, an overloaded trailer can put too much pressure on every tire. If there is too much pressure, it will weigh the tires down, which increases the chances it will fail or blow. This is why tires need to be properly inflated. Most importantly, a driver should never surpass a trailer’s maximum weight capacity.
Third, did the driver hit a hazard on the road, and if so, why? Drivers must operate their vehicles in a strategic manner so as to protect the tires’ integrity.
Fourth, did the tire have a leak? The most dangerous source of a blowout is a slow leak. This type of leak is tough to detect because it weakens a tire’s core very gradually. The easiest way to catch a slow leak early is by conducting a brief tire inspection before every trip, which is required by the FMCSR pre-trip.
Fifth, was the truck driver speeding, especially over the 30 days before the blow out? When a truck driver speeds, it causes the tire to wear down faster. Many tire manufacturers understand this, which is why they use unique components during the manufacturing process to give their products a speed restriction. Typically, if an 18-wheeler travels faster than 75 miles per hour, its tires will begin to break down. That is why it is important to try to determine the pattern of how the driver used this same vehicle over the last 30 to 60 days.
Sixth, was the tire defective? Defects are usually discovered by a manufacturer or a consumer. If a large group reports a product is defective, the manufacturing company will issue a recall. The most common type of defect relates to a tire’s sidewall. A tire is labeled as defective if the sidewalls aren’t melded correctly to its steel belt or its tread.
So, what happens during a blowout? Research has shown an operator of a truck should not spin the steering wheel, release the gas pedal or apply the brakes. Instead, a driver must try to steer the truck straight on the road. During this process, the vehicle will try to drift to one side. To prevent this from happening, the driver must stay calm while aligning their hands on the steering wheel in the 10 and two position. The truck will start to wobble a bit. However, the driver shouldn’t try to turn the steering wheel because the rotation could trigger a spinout.
Once the driver has regained control of the truck, he or she can slowly take their foot off of the gas pedal so the engine can slow down on its own. After the truck’s speed is below 30 miles per hour, it’s safe to apply the brakes.
If you or a loved one has been involved in a crash with a tractor trailer because of a blown tire, please trust the experienced trucking litigators at Bordas & Bordas to help you through the process and investigate your claim.