By Ellen Fike, Cowboy State Daily
Brake failure may have contributed to the crash of a semi-trailer that drove through all 10 gates of a runaway truck arrester and plunghed into Buffalo’s Mosier Gulch this week, according to a Wyoming truck driver.
Phillip Losinski, a driver for Heartland/MG Oil, said he was surprised to learn all of the gates failed to stop the truck before it plunged into the gulch on Wednesday night, as well as to hear no one was injured in the crash. He’s familiar with that stretch of road where the semi- crashed and has seen the 10 gates during his drives.
While Losinski has never had to use a runaway gate himself in years as a truck driver, he has seen other incidents in which drivers have used them.
Losinski theorized that if the driver was traveling too fast for his load, using his foot pedal brake too much, was not in a low enough gear and was using using his “Jake break” (compression release engine break) properly, the brake pads might have rubbed on the brake drums and discs and gotten so hot, they’d stop working.
One indicator that there’s a problem is smoke.
“If you look in the mirrors and see smoke coming off your brakes, then you better do something immediately,” he said.
At that point, a driver’s chances to stop the truck without assistance are already diminished, but he or she still might be able to get the Jake brake engaged and slow the truck to a stop, Losinski said.
If not, there’s pretty much nothing a driver can do at that point besides wait for the impact.
The driver can apply as much pressure on the brake pedal as pthey want, but the truck will continue to go faster because the hot brakes will not allow any braking to occur, Losinski said.
“Once your brakes have failed, you’re past the point of no return,” he said. “There are no second chances.”
However, he noted that the situation could have been caused by driver error or mechanical failure and didn’t want to get too specific about the incident without having more information.
Losinski compared the reasoning behind the truck blowing through all 10 gates to a windmill, where doubling the wind speed means putting three to four times as much pressure on the windmill. It’s the same idea with a truck, with just a little bit of increased speed means the truck was likely barreling down the road and needed probably 10 more gates to stop it.