Report says big rig tires can’t handle more than 75 mph

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AUSTIN (KXAN) — A new report from the Associated Press suggests higher speed limits may cause more wrecks and tire blowouts with big rigs. The report specifically referenced State Highway 130 in Central Texas, where the speed limit is 85 mph.

Austin City Council members have backed a push by state lawmakers to encourage semis to take the toll road instead of Interstate 35, but this report questions whether it is a safe alternative. The report states the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said truck tires are built to only sustain up to 75 mph. Anything above that can be dangerous.

People in the trucking industry told KXAN that most companies do what they can to make sure big rigs do not go faster than what tires can handle.

“Even if you have the ability to go that fast, it’s a general rule a truck’s not going to want to go that fast whether he’s empty or whether he’s loaded,” said John Esparza, Texas Trucking Association president and CEO. “It’s a speed that exceeds safe driving miles per hour for that truck.”

Esparza said companies often will have governors, a system which limits speed, on all their trucks because high speeds burn fuel, tires and money.

GOING IN-DEPTH // Speed Ratings

While it is never safe to drive above the posted speed limit, it can be difficult to tell how fast your car can safely travel.

There are more than a dozen different speed ratings for tires, which indicate their maximum speed.

“They have enough trial and error over time and have seen and know that the safer miles per hour is going to be lower than that 75 mph,” said Esparza. “They’re also going to see a difference in fuel efficiency above 68-67 miles per hour.” He said even though most drivers know not to go above the industry standard, it doesn’t mean drivers always obey the rules.

Karl Kamp, a driver for Acme Bricks, spent part of the afternoon filling up his tires at a gas station along SH 130.  He said he usually takes the toll road to get from Elgin to the San Antonio area.

“At 85 miles an hour, you’re going to be hanging on …You know, you have between 70,000- to 80,000 pounds,” said Kamp. “And anytime you blow a tire, if that tire comes off and goes through somebody’s windshield.”

Kamp said his truck is programmed to stay below 70 mph.

The Texas Department of Transportation says truck drivers are supposed to know their limitations. It is up to the driver to know if a truck has tires that can handle a certain load and speed.

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