What is a Runaway Truck Ramp?

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

A runaway truck ramp is a traffic safety feature which is designed to allow truckers to gain control of their vehicles. Such ramps are often built into the designs of highways which are on slopes, such as those found in mountainous regions. Using a runaway truck ramp can help to avert a major accident, and potentially save lives, although some truckers shy away from escape ramps because they feel that using such a ramp is an indicator of lack of skill or experience.

Runaway truck ramps allow truckers to gain control of their vehicles if the brakes fail.
Runaway truck ramps allow truckers to gain control of their vehicles if the brakes fail.

The bed of a runaway truck ramp typically includes upwards, helping to slow trucks which are driven onto it. Such ramps are usually paved with gravel, sand, or other aggregate material which increases traction and further helps to slow runaway vehicles. Because it can take some time for a big rig truck to stop, most runaway truck ramps are quite long, ensuring that drivers have ample time to safely bring their vehicles to a halt.

Runaway truck ramps are often paved with gravel to increase traction.
Runaway truck ramps are often paved with gravel to increase traction.

There are number of reasons to use a runaway truck ramp. Most commonly, the brakes on a truck fail due to overheating or excessive stress. A truck driver may become aware of the problem while attempting to brake as he or she goes downhill; once the situation becomes evident, if a runaway truck ramp is available, it should be used. Once the truck is fully stopped, the driver can assess the situation and figure out what needs to be done.

Runaway truck ramps are also known as emergency escape ramps or truck arrestor beds. As a general rule, ordinary motorists should not use them, ensuring that they remain clear for big trucks to use. If you do need to pull off a highway in a car or light truck, pulling to the shoulder is recommended, as is putting on hazard lights to warn other cars that you are having a problem. If you notice a truck attempting to enter a runaway truck ramp, make sure to remain well clear, as the driver may not have complete control.

Typically, an upcoming runaway truck ramp will be indicated with signage, allowing truckers to move into the appropriate lane in preparation. The frequency of runaway truck ramps varies, depending on the region of the world in which one is traveling and prevailing safety standards. As a general rule, such ramps are installed on the recommendation of a traffic safety authority, and sometimes specific ramps are installed after lobbying from within a community.

Mary McMahon
Mary McMahon

Ever since she began contributing to the site several years ago, Mary has embraced the exciting challenge of being a wiseGEEK researcher and writer. Mary has a liberal arts degree from Goddard College and spends her free time reading, cooking, and exploring the great outdoors.

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Discussion Comments

anon250345

Is it illegal for a police vehicle to block the entrance to an emergency escape ramp for the purpose of scanning vehicles for speeding with radar? At the very least, it seems they have created unsafe driving conditions or are a road hazard. Is there anything in the California Vehicle Code that supports my position?

anon14539

the truck escape ramp respect to design, is not universal criteria, more specific at velocity of design in the approach.

anon9280

How does one shift a big rig with say a fuller roadmaster 13 speed transmission and dual rear axles in the 'horse'

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