Truck Crash Colorado - With Videos

Topic 25387 | Page 9

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Brian M.'s Comment
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Let me just say, drivers are negotiating steeper slopes in the Eastern US every day. This section of 1-70 has had issues and accidents like this for decades, and the biggest reason is the length of the grade, more than it's steepness. After a series of bad wrecks in the 70s they built several runaway truck ramps on the eastbound side above the first wreck. Shoulda coulda woulda, the Texas driver had several opportunities to get his truck stopped and did not have any comprehension of the danger he was creating. By the time he got to Lakewood he had no brakes for probably a dozen or more miles and no more runaway ramps with intensifying traffic. There is no flat runout there, just urban traffic. This is about as clear a case of driver error as we can analyze and learn from, any mechanical issues aside. Regarding the second runaway video. HOLY %$#^@&(E&Q%E^&^%%$#%!!!!!!!! I have seen dozens of trucks pulled from that ramp and none ever got that far up, most not even 1/3 of the way up. That is on the West side of the Eisenhower Tunnel quite a ways west of Denver. This is another case of a driver second guessing whether to take that first safety out and the second runaway ramp available or try to ride it out.

I know the old hands know these things, but I want to put it out some thoughts for the less experienced guys to think about.

This is just speculation, but I think both situations probably involved an out of gear situation. Recognizing that you didn't gear down enough, then trying to correct by attempting a downshift will almost always leave you out of gear and out of options. Keep in mind being on the brakes continuously can generate temperatures into the thousand degree plus range in seconds. If you are in this situation, old timers told me to snub brake, brake hard, let off for a few moments of cooling then brake hard and short and repeat until you can bring the truck to a stop, even if it is in the lane of traffic. Then and only then get your lower gear. You can get an incredible amount of cooling by doing that and extend your ability to brake over cooking them completely right at the start. And that is no guarantee. Feathering the brakes is a sure fire way to overheat.

I struggled with the transition to automated transmission and descents. The driver manual goes into detail on how to set your cruise control 5 mph under your desired speed, blah blah blah. I never was able to make it work as described. The solution I have come up with is to select my gear by placing it in manual mode, setting my desired gear for the speed limit and using the engine brake at the rate needed. Downshifting at too high a speed puts you into danger of over revving, high rpm, though autos are rated for 2100 max rpm (it makes me cringes when I get close to 1800). You can downshift in manual, but engine failure isn't an attractive option either. When I find myself in an unexpected steeper section where the appropriate gearing from earlier is no longer suitable, snub braking gets me a safe downshift because I haven't had to touch the brakes before that point. Again, there are much steeper grades east of the Mississippi, but the grades tend to be shorter. Western grades are hazardous because of their length and long flats within the grade. Both of these videos are from long steep grade sections (5-6%).

Be patient. If you don't have experience on a grade, take it slower. Don't be envious of the trucks blowing past you. It won't take long for you see some of them in the ditch. Even if you are familiar with a grade, think about what you are hauling. A lot of times you won't even get to see the load because it's sealed before you couple up. Liquids move- even bottled water and can handle differently than dry loads.

You may feel comfortable negotiating a grade in a higher gear, but remember, just because you can go, it doesn't mean you can stop. Grades are seldom straight so always expect the worst around that corner ahead of you, learn how quickly you can get that loaded truck to slow down and stop. I'd be embarrassed to confess the number of times I've maintained great following distance and let down my guard before going into a blind curve only to have that 'Oh ****" moment. You can find yourself in that situation on a flat road anytime, assume you are going to be in that position on every downgrade. We all push ourselves to cover those miles, get it done and then do it again. I never saw these videos until today, but I had visualized exactly where and how the Lakewood accident happened, and I consciously changed the way I have been driving. We can incrementally let our following distances get shorter until something bad happens, we can let our speed creep up a little higher than we would have considered a month ago, we can forget to lean and carefully check mirrors before that lane change and the consequences can be life changing.

As you drive think about what it would feel like to be driving 85 mph into stopped traffic. It could be more deadly driving 45 mph into stopped traffic with different circumstances. Think about how the driver in the runaway ramp video felt accelerating past cars in the next two lanes before he could get to the runaway ramp (cars on that section tend to stay out of the truck descent lane- but not always). And as I go to sleep tonight, I'm going to be thinking about what if felt like to keep going up an incline that steep to nearly the end of the ramp. I'm slowing down again.


Hours Of Service

HOS refers to the logbook hours of service regulations.


Operating While Intoxicated

Keith A.'s Comment
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Amazingly well said Brian

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