By Russ and Tiña De Maris
A set of freakish coincidences have sped up the thinking of Utah’s Department of Transportation regarding runaway truck ramps. In less than a year, three commercial trucks have come to grief after having blasted down U.S. Highway 89 in Garden City, Utah, and across a T-intersection.
The first was in October 2018, when a driver blasted his rig into a sporting goods store, and sadly ended the driver’s life. Two more trucks in similar circumstances at the bottom of the same hill followed within 10 months, both within a week of each other. All three rigs had brake failure, and the latter two rigs “bulldozed” storage units at the accident scene.
What’s to be done when you don’t have sufficient “real estate” to put in a runaway truck ramp, loaded with sand and gravel to provide an out for a runaway? Utah engineers are looking into building not a runaway ramp, but rather a “runaway containment” system.
Modeled after a unique system first unveiled in Wyoming, the system funnels runaway rigs down a chute, criss-crossed with a series of cable nets. When the oncoming rig hits a net, the cables attached to the net unspool, slowing the vehicle’s velocity.
Before the first fatal Garden City incident, Utah engineers had contacted Wyoming to schedule a visit to get a firsthand look at its containment system. By coincidence, the visit took place the day following the first (and fatal) Garden City truck accident.
The visitors took a stroll through the chute, and stepped back up to their vehicles. A sign was lit up, indicating the chute was fair game for runaway trucks, and in less than 10 minutes, the engineers got to see an unscheduled live demonstration when a big rig lost its brakes and bailed off the highway and into the chute. The driver survived, and the engineers must have had more than just a head-shake.
The runaway containment system isn’t as friendly as the standard “sand and gravel” ramp. Front-end damage to the rig as likely, but compared to blasting off a mountainside or into oncoming vehicles or buildings, using a runaway containment system seems like a better choice.
They don’t work, the one on teton pass is closed and they are replacing it with sand barrels. The more vehicles that used it the less effective it was until a pickup with a trailer went completely through it. Once it was closed a semi went passed the first runaway ramp that was open just to see the closed sign for the second ramp that was after the first ramp, he went for the sand box for road sand and the load cleaned the sleeper,cab,and,engine off the frame rails, and landed over 80 ft from the truck. Lesson here folks, don’t trust this new system, at least not on teton pass.
That system is very similar to the system that the Navy uses on aircraft carriers to trap a jet that has catastrophic damage that would prevent it from landing in the normal way with its tail hook. It is a well thought out system that works well.
Exactly was I was thinking.
Me too, as soon as I read the headline. However, I think the navy’s setup is probably more well thought out and tested.
As a retired Air Traffic Controller for the Air Force, I have seen many an aircraft restrained by cable systems we had at the ends of the runway. The system is similar to the Navy’s system and it works very well. The problem with the system is it only works for fighter aircraft and those aircraft that have tail hooks. I can see where the system may not be compatible with other type vehicles and might even cause death to say a pick-up or car entering into the system. No system is perfect
The big difference is the vehicle construction, the front surfaces of the airplane are made with aluminum and reinforced bracing capable of withstanding forces of air speeds in excess of Mach 1. A truck uses fiberglass hoods, glass windshield, and aluminum body with minimal reinforced bracing to save weight. As a former truck driver I would hate to see an 1 1/2” cable coming at me cutting through the fiberglass and aluminum cab. Why not design a giant tray like device filled with water. If you’ve ever driven into a flooded street with just 2”-3” of water how fast did your vehicle lose speed. Imagine driving into 2’ of water.
And in winter where the “tray” freezes you have a skating rink. Where I live we have barrels of water and glycol protecting concrete abutments. Water and glycol so it doesn’t freeze in winter.
Evaporation is a problem also.