Runaway Truck Ramp

Oct 09, 2020


The sign says, “Don’t Be Fooled…”! What does that have to do with a big rig loaded to the maximum of weight 80,000 pounds, hot brakes, and hairpin curves?

You can’t miss this sign on east-bound I-70, it reads: “Truckers Don’t Be Fooled, You’re Not Down Yet”. Drivers pass under the Continental Divide (via Eisenhower Tunnel) and in about 60 miles descend almost 6000 feet into Denver, CO. Dan Hopkins, former communications director for Colorado’s highway department, explains the innovative (and now infamous) sign. It was developed by a task force focused on making the roadway safer. He says, “You see the Denver skyline in the distance, and you have the sensation…that you’re out of the mountains.”1 Hot brakes, inexperience, and lack of awareness once caused many accidents in that area.

Interstates are not to exceed a 6% grade, but roads in mountainous areas are allowed an exception.2 Road Grade is the classic rise over run math problem. For example, a hill with 10% grade decreases 10 feet in elevation for every 100 feet in distance (10/100 = 10%). Now, imagine a rig, as Car and Driver suggests is “loaded to the legal max of 80,000 pounds”. …And, that same rig no longer has the ability to slow or stop without the aid of deep sand, water barrels, or a steep narrow ramp that seems to teeter precariously up the side of a mountain that was already deemed treacherous.

Like truckers, what do leaders need to consider?

  1. Hot Brakes: It is not uncommon to see signs along mountain passes advising truckers to confirm their brakes are cool before a steep descent. Brett Aquila of Trucking Truth says, “…brakes are designed to take a lot of heat. However, brakes can fade or fail from excessive heat...” Leaders know that pursuing demanding endeavors too intensely for too long can cause disastrous burnout.
  2. Difficulty: The steeper the road, the more challenging the passage. Consider the difficulty of traveling up or down a severe grade, it simply takes more energy to overpower the effects of gravity on the way up and more energy to regulate the effects of gravity on the way down. Leaders know that momentum and control must exist simultaneously.
  3. Hairpin Curves: When driving on switchbacks, drivers make U-turns or double-back in the direction from which they came. Yet, when navigating a steep mountain, sometimes it is only possible when you slowly crisscross the terrain reducing the change in elevation to a reasonable pitch. Leaders know the  journey is longer, but otherwise impossible.

Runaway truck ramps save trucker’s lives, along with the lives of countless others. However, the trucks that use runaway truck ramps are always damaged. Drivers of these speeding trucks often sustain injuries. The payload being transported can also be spoiled. So, using a runaway truck ramp is not a strategy. Using a runaway truck ramp is a pricey bailout option. What signs are you seeing along the road? What in your surrounding environment might be fooling you? Check your brakes, acknowledge the difficulty, and remain encouraged despite apparent U-turns. 

Sources: Colorado Public Radio: CDOT Created Those Infamous ‘Truckers Don’t Be Fooled’ Signs After This Historic I-70 Crash; Interstate Guide: Interstate Standards; Car and Driver: Runaway-Truck Ramps Explained.

by Michelle Sugerman • Leading Synergies, LLC • © All Rights Reserved

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