The Dangers of Truck Tire Blowouts
Tire Blowouts Can Cause Major Big Rig Accidents
As a nation that relies heavily on trucks, big rigs, 18-wheelers, and semi-trucks to transport inland freight, tire blowouts are common on America’s highways. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), tire blowouts account for more than 12,000 truck accidents annually, many of them causing injuries and fatalities, not to mention property damage. If you are injured as result of a truck tire blowup, talk to experienced big rig accident attorneys immediately.
Causes of tire blowouts
On average, truck tires have a pressure of 75,000 lbs. weighing down on them at any given time. At the same time, they are forced to turn for hundreds of miles without stopping. The tremendous strain subjects the rubber to a lot of wear and tear, making it ripe for a blowout. When the air pressure inside the tire builds up, the tire can explode.
Tire blowups can happen due the following reasons:
- Overinflated tires: When tires are overinflated, the heat from the hot sun, asphalt, and friction raises the temperature of the air inside them, causing the air to expand until the rubber stretches beyond its limit and gives way with an explosion.
- Underinflated tires: Underinflated tires are put under even more stress, transferring the weight of the load to their internal components and forcing them to flex past their limit. At the same time, the heat buildup inside the tires causes the rubber to crack and explode.
- Overloaded vehicles: Overloading is a common problem in the trucking industry. Overloading puts added pressure on tires that are already under tremendous pressure, causing even perfect tires to blowout.
- Wear and tear: Truck tires operate under tremendous pressure day in and day out. Quite often, they have to run cracked and pothole-filled roads. All these combine to put them through a lot of wear and tear over time. A worn out tire can easily blowout when the air pressure inside it builds up.
- Road hazards: Roads cannot be expected to be smooth and shiny everywhere. Truckers often have to face road hazards like cracked road surfaces and potholes, which can tear and damage the tires over time. Damaged tires can easily blow up under extra weight or heat.
Who can be Held Responsible for a Commercial Truck Tire Blowout?
There are several things that truckers are supposed to do before they hit the road. They will have to make sure that the truck receives the proper maintenance. The truck’s tires, mirror, reflectors, steering and loads are some of the things that will need to be inspected. General maintenance should also be performed before the trucker hits the road.
If a tire blowout occurs and the trucker did not perform the proper maintenance, then they can be held responsible. However, the trucking company will have to pay for any damages that the tire blowout causes.
The Maintenance Company
In many cases, the trucker will not be held responsible for the tire blowout. A tire blowout can sometimes be caused by negligence of the maintenance company. More trucking companies are hiring third-parties to take care of the maintenance. If a company hires a third-party, then they need to make sure that they hire a reputable company.
The technicians should have received the proper training from the Tire Industry Association. The company should also comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration standards. If untrained technicians worked on the truck, then the maintenance company may be held responsible. They may have to pay for your medical bills, lost wages and other expenses that you incur due to the accident.
The Tire Manufacturer
In some cases, neither the maintenance company nor the trucker is responsible for a tire blow out. The tire manufacturer may be held responsible for the tire blow out. It can be difficult to see whether the tire has a defect because it may look fine. Many people do not realize that there is a problem until the tire blows out.
In order for the manufacturer to be held responsible, the person has to be able to prove that the tire blew out because it was defective. They also have to prove that the company knew that the tire was defective, and they did nothing about.
Consequences of tire blowups
Tire blowouts are not like a flat tire. They can be extremely dangerous – to both the truck and to other vehicles near the truck. Not only can they cause the truck to become unstable and go out of control and collide into other vehicles, but flying fragments of exploded tires can also imperil the lives of the people in vehicles and pedestrians.
The main consequences of a tire blowup are as follows:
- Truck driver may lose control: The force of the explosion along with the instability of the trailer when having to balance on the suddenly uneven tires may cause the truck driver to swerve and lose control and even tip over. The result, as you can imagine, can be catastrophic.
- Flying tire debris may hit other vehicles and pedestrians: When a tire blows out, the force of explosion rips the tire apart, sending large and small chunks of rubber flying in every direction. If there are other vehicles and pedestrians in the path of the flying debris, the result can be deadly.
- The cargo may become loose: The trailer may open and release the cargo all over the road, creating hazards for other vehicles.
- It may cause other drivers to panic: Truck tire blowups are usually very loud, which is enough to frighten many people. Seeing the truck go out of control after that may cause panic among other drivers and may cause them to swerve, brake, or speed up irrationally, further adding to the chaos.
Why it is important to have a truck tire repaired properly, and how to make it happen
YOU MUST TAKE A TIRE OFF THE WHEEL AND MAKE A PERMANENT REPAIR FROM THE INSIDE. NO EXCEPTIONS!
Consider this: You are an owner operator, or the manager of a trucking fleet and you have chosen to only use one of the best major brand tires on your fleet of trucks, whether it is a fleet of one truck or one thousand.
Last Monday you had one of the new tires you purchased installed on one of your trucks in a drive tire position. You probably paid in excess of $500 Canadian for the tire; let’s say it was an 11R22.5 or a 295/80R22.5, both popular sizes.
Your truck left the yard at about 10:00 AM and at 1:00 PM while traveling down the highway less than 100 miles from home base it picked up a large nail that had just fallen off the truck ahead of it.
A few minutes later the driver noticed that something was wrong – very wrong! – with how his truck was handling, so he pulled off the highway and discovered that the left front drive tire was nearly flat. Not being a moron he know that the right thing to do was to NOT continue down the highway with one grossly underinflated tire because he know that if he did he would probably ruin the tire and possibly damage the other tire next to it on the dual wheel position. He also knew that it could be unsafe because he might not be able to handle the truck as easily as if all the tires were functioning properly.
What to do? Happily, he did the right thing and called for help. Since his truck had a spare (unfortunately, not too common; look for yourself the next time you pass an 18 wheeler on the highway) he only needed a service truck to come and change the damaged tire and put on the spare so that he could continue on his way.
About an hour later he was back in action with the damaged tire in the area under the trailer where the spare is normally kept.
That evening when he returned to home base he unloaded the damaged tire and the next day he took it to his local tire dealer who informed him that he was lucky that it was only a nail puncture and the damage was in the center of the tread area and not near the sidewall, meaning that “we can easily put in a plug and have you on your way in less than 15 minutes and it will only cost you just a few bucks.”
Whoa! Something smelled bad with what the tire dealer told him, and the trucker, not being a moron, decided to pass and visit another tire dealer just down the road.
Lucky he did! The second tire dealer had a well trained staff and understood that the ONLY way to properly repair a tire was from the inside and NOT by simply putting in a plug. The first thing the second tire dealer did was to carefully inspect the damaged tire to be certain it was repairable. Luckily, it was.
The second tire dealer than removed the nail and had the damaged area properly prepared for the plug and patch that would be installed into the tire from the INSIDE. The cost was somewhat more than “just a few bucks” but a whole lot LESS than the cost of a new tire, and more importantly the properly repaired tire was able to be put back into full use and live out its normal first life and even be suitable for retreading for succeeding lives.
How to Determine the Age of a Tire
The sidewall of a tire is covered in numbers and letters. They all mean something, but deciphering them can be a challenge. This Edmunds article about reading a tire’s sidewall goes into greater detail. But to determine the age of a tire, you simply need to know its U.S. Department of Transportation (DOT) number.
Tires made after 2000 have a four-digit DOT code. The first two numbers represent the week in which the tire was made. The second two represent the year. A tire with a DOT code of 1116 was made in the 11th week of 2016.
Tires made before 2000 have a three-digit code that is trickier to decode. The first two digits still indicate the week, but the third digit tells you the year in the decade that the tire was created. The hard part is knowing what decade that was. Some tires made in the 1990s (but not all) have a triangle after the DOT code, denoting that decade. But for tires without that, a code of “328” could be from the 32nd week of 1988 — or 1978. Really, you can ignore all that: If you see a DOT number ending in three digits, the tire was made in the last century and needs to be replaced as soon as possible.
Clearly, these DOT numbers weren’t designed with everyday buyers in mind. They were originally put on tires to make it easier for NHTSA to recall tires and keep track of their manufacturing date.
To make matters worse, you might not always find the full DOT number on the outer side of the tire. Because of the way a tire is made, it is actually safer for the technician operating the mold to imprint information on the inner side of the tire, so some manufacturers will opt to put the number there. It is still possible to check the DOT code, but you might have to jack the car up to see it. Keep the visibility of the DOT number in mind the next time you are at a tire shop and the installer asks if you want the tires to be mounted with the raised lettering facing in.
After checking out a tire’s birthdate, give the rubber a visual inspection. Some of the best advice on such an inspection comes from the British Tyre Manufacturers’ Association. It recommends that consumers check tires regularly for any sign of aging, such as tread distortion or large or small hairline cracks in the sidewall. Vibrations or a change in the dynamic properties of the tire could also be an indicator of aging problems, the association said. It recommends replacing the tire immediately if such symptoms appear.