How Runaway Truck Ramps Work
Even if you aren't a trucker, if you've ever driven through hilly or mountainous terrain you've surely seen runaway truck ramps leading away from the road. If you've ever been curious why and when they're needed, here is a brief overview.
When a truck is hauling 40 tons of cargo down a steep grade, it puts immense pressure on the brakes. Even a careful and experienced truck driver can experience brake failure coming down a steep mountain pass, and once those brakes go, his or her truck becomes an unstoppable comet, which is why runaway truck ramps are there to save the day.
You will generally see runaway truck ramps at the end of a straight decline, before a turn or intersection. There are several types of truck ramps. A Gravity Escape Ramp is the variety seen in the mountains, where the gravel ramp rises steeply to cause quick deceleration. A Sand Pile escape ramp is a smaller ramp of piled on sand, used for lesser grades. An Arrester Bed is used on even lower grades, and runs adjacent to the road. You may also rarely see a Mechanical-arrestor Escape ramp, which uses steel nets to slow a truck.
If a truck does have to use the escape ramp, it's a one-way trip, with a tow and a fine to get back out. Trucks can also take damage using the ramp, or even roll to the side after stopping. For these reasons (along with their lives), most truckers exercise caution when driving on steep grades .
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