Trucks at Work

Highways don't fit trucks

You've seen the video and the incendiary copy by now -- tanker truck rollover crashes and subsequent explosions in San Francisco and Houston almost back to back this past week put trucking front and center in the cable TV news hole, on a semmingly endless loop.

It's a horror story for the drivers in each case: though the tanker driver in San Francisco managed to escape, his exploding rig collapsed part of the freeway, guaranteeing snarled traffic for months. The driver in Houston fared far worse -- he got killed, the worst possible outcome for his family.

While the details of both wrecks get sorted out, one thing is for certain: both truckers were navigating highway on-off ramps that are entirely too narrow and too sharp for tractor-trailers. That's one of the unspoken issues behind truck accidetns today -- not only are most truck-car collisions caused by the driver of the car (75% fo the time), highways are designed from the ground up to handle cars -- not heavy trucks.

I've experienced this all over the U.S. -- many on-off ramps are barely wide enough to fit my vehicle, let alone an 18-wheeler, and you can feel the G-forces even if you exit the highway at the posted speed limit on most ramps. For a big rig with a high center of gravity, if you are not driving BELOW the posted speed limit on these ramps, you could be in world of hurt.

So as these two terrible crashes are reconstructed, let's hope the investigaors look at the on-off ramps these drivers had to navigate, for if they were wider and not so sharp, we just might prevent these kinds of horriffic accidents.