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Trucks that do 85 in Texas could be a source of disaster

Folks who do a lot of driving between San Antonio and Austin may be aware of the 41-mile stretch of State Highway 130 that allows vehicles to tool along at 85 mph. What they may not know is that if they are sharing the road with one of the many tractor-trailers that use the route, they could be at increased risk of being involved in an accident.

Those experienced in dealing with truck accidents know and will surely confirm that the consequences of having a run-in with a big rig often involve serious injury. In the worst of cases, victims die. Such outcomes are common just because of the massiveness of the trucks involved and the loads they carry.

But now there is some evidence that suggests that those high speeds could present a risk too, because the tires on many of trucks aren't rated to handle them. An Associated Press report that appeared in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram recently says that nearly all truck tires made since about 2005 are designed to operate at sustained speeds no higher than 75 mph.

That reflects the fact that the speed limit on the vast majority of the highways in the United States tops out at between 65 and 70. Texas is one of 14 states where some limits have been raised, but apparently some of those actions were taken without tire makers being consulted.

Experts say the reason this is a concern is because tires exposed to that kind of prolonged pressure can experience excessive heat buildup. That damages the tire rubber and catastrophic failure can result.

The AP says it discovered the rift between standards and speed limits after reviewing documents about a federal investigation into truck tire failures. That probe examined 16 tire failure complaints. It was thought that there was something faulty with the tires, but investigators determined that the most likely cause of the failures was excessive speed.

Three crashes resulted from those blowouts. Fortunately, there were no injuries. But that would seem to have been just a matter of good luck, which likely won't last.

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