The freeways and interstates that wind through and around Los Angeles can make the area ripe for rush hour gridlock that frustrates commuters. But the sheer number of 18-wheelers barreling by at high speeds when traffic is moving freely can be a far deadlier mix.
Investigators have discovered that a recent uptick in fatal accidents is related, in part, to the sustained high speeds these big rigs travel on tires that were not designed to maintain speeds in excess of 75 mph for long periods. Yet, due to the constraints of deadlines pushed by the shipping companies, truckers routinely exceed the tire safety limits.
Government investigators are aware of the correlation and according to a correspondent from CBS News, they intend to do something about it.
During the four years from 2009-2013, drivers of buses and large trucks were at fault for 4,000 fatal collisions. Government statistics pinpointed the tires of the heavy vehicles as a factor in at least 223 of those deaths.
Earlier this year, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration investigated numerous blowouts of Michelin tires. The NHTSA discovered that shoddy tire maintenance and excessive speeds were to blame.
Some states have higher speed limits than 75 mph, meaning that some long-haul truckers are straining their tires, as none are rated for speeds over 81, with most peaking at 75 mph. With truckers regularly crisscrossing the country, this weakening of the tires can have devastating effects for Los Angeles drivers.
The danger has been known to the American Trucking Association for a long time, their executive vice president acknowledged, saying, "Raising speed limits at the state level is a bad idea beyond 65 mph."
Although the trucking industry requested that the federal government regulate speed using electronic limiters that cap trucks' maximum speed at 65 mph, not all trucking companies are in agreement. Thirty percent refuse to put limits on their drivers.
Until all trucks are compliant, drivers of lighter passenger vehicles remain at risk. Those who have been injured or lost loved ones to big rig crashes can pursue justice through the civil courts.
Source: CBS News, "Deadly big rig-related accidents on rise," accessed Nov. 06, 201