By Russ and Tiña De Maris
Have you ever been on the downhill side of a steep pass and had that sickening feeling of no brakes? A runaway RV is a scary situation, and one that some have not lived to tell about. Commercial truck drivers face the same issue, often on a larger scale, when running upwards to 40 tons. You’ll often see – but hope to never use – a runaway truck ramp on steep downgrades along interstates. Typically, the ramp is a buildup of deep gravel, designed to slow and stop a runaway rig.

Infamous intersection

runaway RV
Semi truck demolishes store when brakes fail. fox13now.com.

U.S. Highway 89 in Garden City, Utah, is an infamous spot among long-haul drivers. The steep descent into Garden City ends in a “T” intersection along a busy city thoroughfare. Back in 2018 a semi-truck lost its brakes on the downgrade into the town. A security cam caught the last few seconds of the ride as the trucked blew through the intersection – and into a sporting goods store. Sadly, the driver didn’t make it out alive.

Other accidents and near-misses followed. In one astonishing traffic cam video, a semi-driver somehow made the turn at the bottom of the hill – the wheels on one side of his trailer off the ground as he struggled to keep the combination upright. Obviously, something needed to be done.

Utah Highway Department officials eyeballed the situation, but finding a tract of land alongside the highway long enough, and a clear-enough shot for a runaway RV or other big vehicle just wasn’t there. But an answer to Garden City’s runaway problem has manifested itself: It’s called a “truck escape system” that doesn’t utilize a gravel ramp but, rather, a technological stopping system.

Shoot the chute

runaway RV
Results of a similar system used in Wyoming. Photo: Wyoming Dept. of Transportation.

The system is basically a concrete walled chute, which directs runaway drivers down to a series of cable nets. The nets, strung out across the chute, catch the barreling runaway and unspool, slowing and eventually stopping the rig. As fearsome as the thing looks, highway officials say there should be little vehicle damage when the system is used – certainly far less damage than blasting through a building or a line of stopped traffic at the bottom of the highway.

It’s the first-of-its-kind escape ramp in Utah, and there was a learning curve for the state’s highway engineers. Oddly enough, though, while the escape system is technological in nature, it actually cost less and takes up far less space than a conventional gravel “truck trap.” For a news story with video, click here.

Should you ever make the trip to Garden City and find you have a runaway RV, don’t hesitate to ride that bucking bronco down the chute. The life you save may be your own – or somebody else’s.

Opening photo credit: fox13now.com

Related:

Runaway trucks get new option – Catch ’em in nets
Prepare for steep grades
Just what does a “grade” sign mean?

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Scott R. Ellis
5 days ago

One of these has been in place on the east side of the Bighorns above Buffalo, WY for several years. Pretty cool system.

Seann Fox
5 days ago

If you find your brakes fail on a long downhill run try pumping them fast and hard. Once you slow down come to a full stop and let your brake system cool off

Ron L.
5 days ago
Reply to  Seann Fox

Not with a diesel motorhome equipped with air brakes….

tim palmer
5 days ago

Reminds me of the principal behind the arrestor cable at the end of the runway at an AF base I worked at.

Bill T
5 days ago
Reply to  tim palmer

That’s exactly what I was thinking.

Bill
2 days ago
Reply to  tim palmer

Or on an aircraft carrier.