A video has been doing the rounds on Social Media in the last week that shows an out-of-control semi truck increasing speed until it reaches well over 150 Km/h! A law enforcement unit is following the truck and the driver is seemingly filming its passage.

We asked Stan Bezuidenhout to weigh in on the video. These are his thoughts:

Firstly, I can see that the truck is being followed by a vehicle and that a siren can be heard. I will assume that it is a law enforcement vehicle. The driver is clearly driving behind the out-of-control truck. I don’t know that this is an ideal solution. I also cannot hear any telephonic or radio communications. Since the truck clearly running out of control presents an extreme danger to other road users and its driver, I would have expected to hear frantic radio or telephone chatter as the officer (or occupant) is trying to request additional resources, declaring an emergency, and/or pre-empting the risk to life by calling for medical services to immediately respond for the sake of saving lives. I would also expect the following driver to be calling on other law enforcement units for assistance with clearing the road ahead, and fire services in anticipation of major crash, entrapments, or a fire.

I am more worried about the fact that the officer is seemingly passively following the truck and simply filming and observing (if this is the case). In the early stages of this threat, I would have expected him to speed ahead in an effort to clear roads and warn road users. He could gesture for the truck driver to follow him as he “clears a lane” or to follow his suggestions for the driver to willingly surrender the truck in areas where it could leave the road with reduced risk to all.

By the time the truck reaches excessive speeds – seemingly in excess of 180 Km/h – there should be a major concerted effort to intervene, to warn unsuspecting road users ahead, to deploy emergency services in anticipation of the worst that could happen, or to attempt to direct the actions of the truck driver towards possible exit strategies.

It also concerns me that the downhill slope is severe enough to cause the truck to reach those speeds. I cannot understand why there are no arrestor beds visible from where the truck first lost control to where the video ends. Considering that the theoretical speed of the truck could easily be calculated, I would expect arrestor beds to be present at consistent intervals, along this route.

The last thing that worries me is the extent to which this driver clearly lost control. It is rather obvious that the brakes have become ineffective. This typically happens when the driver fails to engage a low enough gear to retard the movement of the truck. These big vehicles are not like light motor vehicles and you cannot simply “change down gears” once the maximum gear speeds are exceeded. If the driver finds himself in this predicament and tries to use his brakes, they will simply burn up and become ineffective. Many people don’t realize this, but semi trucks are not designed to be able to slow down on steep downhills on brakes alone. They’re simply too heavy and the friction forces too overwhelming.

In my mind, there are a number of issues here, that conspired to create such extreme dangers for the driver and other road users that I expect the National Minister of Transport to appoint a team form the Road Traffic Management Corporation to do a technical route assessment on this section of road, considering the extreme danger we witness in this video.

Stan Bezuidenhout is a Forensic Specialist and Commercial Crash Analyst with more than 20 years of international experience investigating commercial crashes, reconstructing them and testifying in court to the causes of major crashes.

[Additional Info: It appears the brakes have been over-used on the pass causing the brake failure. The vehicle has been towed and suspended from use.]

 

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