Truck narrowly misses driver at runaway ramp
SUMMIT COUNTY – A semi-truck driver narrowly missed striking and possibly killing another truck driver who was inspecting his vehicle in the lower runaway truck ramp along Interstate 70 below the Eisenhower Tunnel on Sunday morning.
According to Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Trooper Lloyd Smith, the driver of the first truck was experiencing vehicle problems but was able to stop his semi at the lower portion of the truck ramp at mile marker 209.
Shortly thereafter, a second semi, carrying a 45,000-pound load of high-end liquor headed to Las Vegas, swept by the first truck and its driver and jack-knifed 600 feet up the ramp.
The truck was estimated to be going 75 to 80 mph when it passed the first semi and the driver, Smith said.
“He missed him by a couple of feet,” he said. “The driver was inspecting his truck. He was a pedestrian on the highway.”
To complicate matters, the driver of a third semi needed the ramp because his truck’s brakes were overheated; he was able to come to a safe stop at the bottom of the ramp, Smith said.
None of the drivers – and none of the booze – was injured or damaged in the incident.
It took wreckers from Dillon Towing an hour and a half to haul away the big rigs.
The posted speed limit from the Eisenhower Tunnel to Silverthorne is 30 mph for big rigs, but many truckers tend to go faster once the weather warms up and the roads are clear.
Sometimes, troopers have to wait until Frisco before they can safely pull trucks over for moving violations, Smith said.
“When you have a truck going 60 mph with an 80,000-pound load, they cannot safely stop,” he said.
“We get several a week. Some of them are inexperienced. One of these was from Illinois. Colorado’s a bad place to learn how to drive.”
It’s not often several trucks need to use the same ramp simultaneously – but it’s not unheard of, either.
“That’s why it’s so dangerous to be out there,” Smith said. “You never know when the next guy is going to be coming along.”
CSP troopers consider trucks in the runaway ramp to be an emergency, and try to get tow trucks dispatched as soon as possible.
Sometimes truckers want to call around and find the least expensive wrecker to haul their vehicle off the ramp, but CSP’s priorities lie in freeing up the ramp for the next vehicle that needs it.
Last year, a waste oil tanker that used a ramp called around and found the cheapest tow – in Albuquerque, N.M., Smith said.
“We can’t wait that long,” he said. “We have a list of local wreckers and we alternate. It costs a bit of money, but that’s what’s got to be done.”
None of the truckers were ticketed in the incident, despite reports floating around in the industry that using an emergency truck ramp will net them thousands of dollars in fines.
“We normally don’t (issue tickets),” Smith said. “We would rather have them use the ramp than hit a car on the road.”
Smith advises other drivers to stay clear of trucks whose brakes are smoking and not to stop along the interstate unless it’s an emergency.
Jane Stebbins can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 228 or email@example.com.
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