With the technology built into tires on the road today, the chances of experiencing a steer-tire blowout or rapid air-loss event may be less likely, but it is still a risk drivers should be prepared for. A driver’s initial response to a steer-tire blowout could be the difference between a minor delay to change a flat tire or a catastrophic loss caused by a loss of control crash. To avoid steer-tire blowouts, use the following prevention techniques:
One of the leading causes of tire failure is improper inflation. This occurs when a slow or sudden air leak breaks down the inner wall of the tire to the point of failure. Drivers should check tire pressure during their pre-trip inspections and throughout the day using a tire pressure gauge to ensure each tire is inflated to the manufacturer’s specifications. Kicking the tire is not an accurate gauge. Also, drivers should look for tire damage, such as punctures, sidewall damage, and loose, missing, or separated tread. Any issues should be documented, reported to maintenance, and corrected before leaving.
MAINTAIN PROPER FOLLOWING DISTANCE
A tractor/trailer traveling at 65 mph travels approximately 100 feet per second. At this speed in ideal conditions, meaning tire tread depth is good, roads are dry, brakes are operational, the driver is fully alert, etc., it will take a tractor/trailer approximately 665 feet to stop. If the unit is traveling 100 feet per second and needs 665 feet to stop, then the truck needs to stay a minimum of six (6) seconds behind the vehicle ahead. Add one second for each additional hazard present, such as ice and fog. If a steer-tire blowout were to occur, braking efficiency would decrease, so allowing extra space to slow down is essential.
BE ATTENTIVE TO THE ROAD AHEAD
Former President Ronald Reagan once asked the pilot of Air Force One why he always tried to land at the front of the runway. The pilot replied, “Because, Mr. President, I cannot use the runway behind me.” Professional drivers should do likewise and be mindful of the road ahead. Not only could there be hazards lurking ahead, like potholes and debris, but drivers should always be thinking of how they can use the road ahead to avoid a loss-of-control crash should a steer-tire blowout occur.
REACT PROPERLY TO HAZARDS
When a steer-tire blowout happens, a driver’s instinct may be to step on the brakes to slow down. Since the unit will naturally pull to the side of the flat tire, applying the brakes could increase the chances of the unit sliding sideways and the driver losing control. The proper reaction should be to accelerate and maintain forward momentum. Gripping the steering wheel firmly, the driver should gently counter steer to offset the side force created by the blowout until control of the unit is regained. At this point, ease off the accelerator until the vehicle is safely stopped.
USE PROPER SPEED FOR CONDITIONS
Besides decreasing fuel economy, excessive speed puts extra wear and tear on equipment, especially tires. There will always be other vehicles going faster or slower, but keeping speeds 1-2 mph below the posted speed limit decreases the number of hard brakes and lane changes that contribute to loss-of-control crashes and stress on equipment.
Remember, a steer-tire blowout happens in a fraction of a second. Applying the driving techniques above and conducting thorough vehicle inspections are the keys to preventing and/or minimizing the risk of a loss-of-control crash.
This material is intended to be a broad overview of the subject matter and is provided for informational purposes only. Great West Casualty Company does not provide legal advice to its insureds or other parties, nor does it advise insureds or other parties on employment-related issues, therefore the subject matter is not intended to serve as legal or employment advice for any issue(s) that may arise in the operations of its insureds or other parties. Legal advice should always be sought from legal counsel. Great West Casualty Company shall have neither liability nor responsibility to any person or entity with respect to any loss, action, or inaction alleged to be caused directly or indirectly as a result of the information contained herein.Reprinted with permission from Great West Casualty Company.