Truck Tire Blowout

Colleton County Fire-Rescue

Fact: tires fail. When a truck tire fails, especially a front tire, it can lead to loss of control and a crash or rollover.

Causes of Tire Failure

One study for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) by the University of Michigan Transportation Research Institute (TRI) found the main causes for tire failure include:

  • Road hazards— 32 percent
  • Maintenance/operational factors— 30 percent and
  • *Overdeflected operation— 14 percent.

*Overdeflected operation means a tire that was operated either underinflated or overloaded or a combination of the two, leading to tire failure.

The study noted, “Tire failure and debris . . . are rarely the cause of a truck crash, factoring in less than 1 percent of all such accidents.”  New and retreaded medium truck tires have about the same failure rates and modes.

Driver Response to a Tire Blowout

The driver must always control the vehicle. If a tire blows out, the driver may or may not hear it, but will feel the blowout either in the steering wheel, if the front tire is flat, or in the seat, if one of the “drives” goes flat.

Safety experts recommend in the case of a sudden tire failure, that the driver SHOULD NOT BRAKE and SHOULD NOT TAKE THEIR FOOT OFF OF THE THROTTLE

In a tire-failure situation, drivers should instead mash down on the throttle for such duration as to regain control of the vehicle.

This seems counterintuitive, but makes sense. Loss of a tire can affect steerability and braking or suddenly slowing down with a flat tire can result in the vehicle pitching forward, resulting in less control.

Once control of the vehicle is regained, the driver can ease off and guide the vehicle in a controlled manner.

This technique assumes the driver is not running up against the governor and has some engine power in reserve. Another study by the NHTSA noted that there are no truck tires rated over 81 MPH. The study cited high speeds and a lack of maintenance as contributing factors in fatal truck tire blowouts.

Summary

In a truck tire rapid air-loss situation, drivers should STOMP on the throttle and STEER to a stop.

Check tire pressures frequently. A tire gauge is better than a tire thumper.

Visually inspect tires for wear or damage on a daily basis.

Never make a habit of running RPMs up against the engine governor. Keep a little power in reserve for emergencies.

Always drive at reasonable speeds, based on the condition of the vehicle and tires, road conditions and weather, and type of load. Never exceed speed limits or safe speeds for driving conditions.

Remember, the goal is to arrive safely.

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