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By Jim Adler June 12, 2015

Be afraid. Be very afraid. Why? Because that 18-wheeler zooming down a highway next to your car may have a catastrophic blowout. And why is that? Because a semi truck accident can occur from big rigs going faster than the maximum speed they can safely travel, given their tires.

An investigation by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration revealed that, despite almost all big rig tires being made for a maximum sustained speed of 75 miles per hour, numerous tractor trailers are going faster than that on highways. And such big rig tires are unsafe at high speeds.

States Have Raised Speed Limits

That’s true in part because 14 states have raised their highway speed limits to be 75, 80 or perhaps even 85 mph, as it is in select parts of Texas.

Only about 10 years ago, almost the entire nation had speed limits no higher than 65 mph or 70 mph. But laws have changed in 14 states, most of them west of the Mississippi River, emboldening many big rig drivers to exceed the safe speed for their tires.

Wyoming and Utah let vehicles travel 80 mph or more, while South Dakota is expected to increase its speed limit for trucks to 80 mph. In Washington state, Nevada and Missouri, trucks can travel 75 mph or more.

Texas’ 85 mph speed limit — fastest in the nation — is in effect on Texas 130 near Austin.

With higher speeds allowed, many 18-wheeler drivers are taking advantage of those speed limits — and putting lives in danger due to potential tire blowouts from sustained speeds above their tires’ speed ratings.

Speed Can Damage a Tire

According to authorities in the field of auto safety, driving faster than a tire’s rated speed for long periods can cause heat damage to the rubber of a tire, which can blow out as a result. Such blowouts involving a huge diesel truck traveling at high speeds can endanger people’s lives.

The NHTSA studied specific Michelin tires and found that in each of 16 complaints evaluated, going faster than such tires’ 75 mph rating was the probable cause of blowouts.

Michelin is America’s largest seller of truck tires. Next are Bridgestone, Goodyear, Yokohama and Firestone.

Big Rig Crashes Can Be Fatal

How serious are tire blowouts for 18-wheelers? Very serious, since big rig crashes can be fatal.

Indeed, according to the NHTSA, the United States had more than 14,000 crashes with fatalities between 2009 and 2013 involving semi trucks and buses. Those crashes claimed the lives of nearly 16,000 persons. And tires were an element in 223 of those deaths and in 198 of those crashes, the NHTSA found.

That’s why the NHTSA concluded that trucks should be equipped with devices preventing them from traveling more than 75 mph — even if the speed limit is higher. As a matter of fact, it’s believed that some big rig companies already enforce such a limit by placing “speed governors” on their trucks to keep them from exceeding 75 mph.

A semi truck industry group called the American Trucking Associations wants to take this even further. It opposes having speed limits higher than 65 mph, and it wants a federal requirement for speed governor devices to be installed in large trucks.

Heavy Loads, Under-Inflated Tires

Of course, other things besides high speeds can cause a big rig tire blowout, including overly heavy loads and under-inflated tires.

But clearly, higher speed limits are not safe when they encourage semi trucks to go faster than their tire ratings. Even so, states have had the authority to set speed limits for around 20 years, and many have done so without taking big rig tire ratings into account.

Officials in some states say they weren’t even aware of truck tires’ lower speed ratings when they increased their states’ speed limits. Of course, they also point out that a big rig doesn’t have to travel 80 mph just because that’s the posted speed limit, but instead should voluntarily travel a safer speed for its tires.

With higher speed limits in mind, the NHTSA might consider using its authority to hike 18-wheeler tire standards. That is, the NHTSA could require manufacturers of big rig tires to produce tires which can handle greater speeds than 75 mph.

At the least, the NHTSA could require that maximum speeds be shown on the sidewall of every truck tire, to help drivers be alerted. That move is under consideration.

As for ordinary cars, higher speed limits are not a problem for their tire ratings. That’s because the federal government requires all tires for cars and light trucks to be manufactured to handle speeds far faster than any posted speed limits in America — perhaps even over 100 mph.

How fast can a car go without damaging its tires due to sustained high speeds? It’s believed the average car can travel up to 112 mph without jeopardizing its tires.

Get A Big Rig Lawsuit

If someone in your family was injured or killed by an 18-wheeler, big rig, diesel truck, tractor trailer or semi truck, alert a truck accident lawyer with Jim Adler & Associates today.

We’ll begin by offering you a free case review. And then, if you engage our law firm, we can fight for your legal right to financial compensation for your losses due to an unsafe big rig, perhaps by getting you a semi truck lawsuit.

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