Runaway truck ramps are important highway features for truckers driving in mountainous areas. Familiarize yourself with the locations of ramps wherever you are hauling goods on roads with steep grades. Here is a quick guide to runaway truck ramps and four locations where you may need to use one.
A Quick Guide to Runaway Truck Ramps
A truck escape ramp is generally built on a highway headed downhill. If the grade increases too rapidly, a truck in a too-high-gear may be unable to downshift. Brakes may be ineffective. The installation of a runaway truck ramp decreases the likelihood of out-of-control rigs causing road closures, injuries and fatalities.
Factors that determine the placement of a runaway truck ramp include:
- Runaway-truck accident rate at same grade
- Percent of slope on road
- Length of steep grade
- Total traffic volume on road
- Frequency of crashes along stretch of highway
Placement of a runaway truck ramp also depends on the location of sharp turns and end-of-grade conditions like the location of a school or busy intersection.
Flat, unpaved runaway ramps use gravel up to 48 inches deep to stop runaway. There are long ascending runaway ramps that head uphill. These use an arrester bed of gravel or sand combined with a gravity escape ramp (the uphill part) to stop a runaway truck. Shorter, downhill ramps may use stainless-steel nets to catch runaway rigs.
4 Mountain Highways With Runaway Truck Ramps
Be careful on the roads listed below. Obey the traffic laws and know where the ramps are placed.
Monteagle Mountain, Tennessee
The treacherous grade up and over Monteagle Mountain has been made famous by both Jerry Reed and Johnny Cash. The eastbound side of I-24 descends 1,161 feet in just over four miles.
At the top of the mountain heading eastbound, you enter a ramp to your right for a mandatory inspection. This is a good thing. If you have any tire, gear or brake issues, you want to know about them before you sail down the 6% grade for those four miles. You also receive information about the conditions and navigation of the section of highway.
Trucks must bear to the right when descending eastbound, but the runaway truck ramps are located on the left side of the road at 1.9 and 3 miles from the summit. This creates a tricky dilemma. The best course of action is to take it super easy coming down the mountain. If you must cross over the lanes to reach either of the ascending runaway ramps, make noise and flash your lights as much as possible to alert drivers in the faster lanes.
Wolf Creek Pass, Colorado
If you drive your rig along Wolf Creek Pass on U.S. Highway 160, expect to see signs from the Colorado DOT warning you to “Beware the Wolf.” That’s because this stretch of road is deceiving. At first, the grade on this high-mountain pass is relatively flat with two lanes. Eventually, the grade increases to over six percent on both sides.
Speed causes most trucking accidents on the western side of Wolf Creek Pass. When the road narrows and the grade increases, inexperienced truckers may not downshift in enough time to slow their rigs. For this reason, there are two runaway truck ramps off the westbound side of Wolf Creek Pass, situated right before the hairpin turn.
The “Beware the Wolf” campaign is aimed at encouraging truckers to use the runaway truck ramps. More importantly, all truckers should obey the posted speed limit for truckers on the pass, which is 25 mph. You will not be fined for using the ramps in an emergency. But you will have to meet with the Colorado State Patrol and pay the costs of towing your semi out of the ramp area.
Teton Pass, Wyoming
Wyoming Highway 22 heading east along Teton Pass to Wilson includes grades that approach 9.5 percent from the summit of the pass to the town below. Runaway trucks have been a problem along this stretch of the Pass. Recently, $3.6 million was spent to install an updated crash-arrestor system.
There is a sand-filled runaway truck ramp on the pass heading down to Wilson, but — like Monteagle’s system — it requires crossing over traffic to reach the sand portion. The new Teton Pass crash arrestor uses a series of eight webbed nets to catch vehicles. A recent crash caught a personal vehicle hauling a trailer using four of the nets.
Steer into the ramp as centered as you can. The arrestor should guide your semi to the webbing to help slow and then stop your truck quickly.
Mount Rose Highway, Nevada
Nevada is another state that’s recently invested millions of dollars in upgrading its runaway truck ramps. State Highway 431 heading toward Tahoe into Incline Village is known for its treacherous spots. The grade varies between three and six percent on the descent down to Incline Village.
The previous gravel runaway ramp failed on several occasions, contributing to several deaths, injuries and a home fire. The new ramp was installed in the same spot.
This arrestor on westbound Mount Rose Highway has ample walls on either side to guide you to the pre-tensioned nets. Because around 5,000 vehicles travel this stretch of Highway 431 every day, the new crash arrestor is a welcome safety feature for all drivers.
No matter what you haul or where you haul, be sure to visit Arrow Truck Sales, Inc., for the right semi-truck you need for both mountain and flat-land hauling.