Managing a Steer Tire Blowout
Altogether, trucking is a pretty easy job. You get paid to travel to exotic destinations like Tuscaloosa, Alabama; Escanaba, Michigan; or Rock Springs, Wyoming. What a job! What they didn’t tell me in truck driving school was that sometimes things can go sideways, for no reason at all. Like anywhere on I-95, why could there possibly be a three-hour backup at 2 a.m. on a Wednesday? Unexpected incidents can occur due to various factors like slippery roads, strong winds, or neglecting alignment issues, resulting in the loss of a steer tire.
When I lost the passenger steer tire, I was fortunate to have been empty and in light traffic. It was still a pretty violent event. The flappin’ tire tore up my fender and headlight pod but no other vehicles were involved. I can see how it might have been an entirely different scenario if the driver’s side had blown in morning traffic when I was loaded. At the time, I guess I reacted the way I should have because I made it to the shoulder without too much loss of control but I can definitely understand how it could’ve been much worse.
Since it’s been a while since truck driving school, I thought I’d do some research and report the common wisdom about how to manage the loss of a steer tire.
How to Best Manage a Steer Tire Blowout
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: Keep an eye on the condition of your tires and suspension. The single best means of prevention is to not have a steer blowout at all.
Do Not Slam on the Brakes or Jerk the Steering Wheel: When a tire blows out, the truck will likely pull towards the side of the blowout. It's critical not to jump on the brakes, since that could lead to a loss of control and potentially cause you to roll over. Similarly, avoid steering in a spastic manner, which can worsen control.
Apply Full Throttle: I know how counterintuitive this is, when a tire blows out, applying full throttle helps. The power and traction from the other tires can overcome the blown tire, helping to maintain the vehicle's forward momentum and control. Slowing down immediately can lead to a loss of control as the pull of the blown tire becomes stronger.
Correct The Steering: While applying the throttle, it's important to correct the steering gently to ensure the vehicle doesn't drift into other lanes. The full throttle will help to keep the truck going straight, requiring only minor corrections to the steering.
Slow Down and Pull Over Gradually: Once control of the vehicle is regained, begin to decelerate slowly and look for a safe place to pull over. Decelerating too quickly can cause a loss of control, so it should be done in a calm and controlled manner.
Turn On Your Hazards and Use Your Safety Markers: Use all your warning devices to increase your visibility for the other travelers. Your day would get much worse if someone ran into you.