August 4, 2010 – We are all too familiar with the runaway truck ramp signs scattered along I-70’s mountain corridor. Just seeing these ramps along the highway is a stern reminder of the power behind a runaway semi truck. Typically less than 2,000 feet long and covered in 2-4 feet of rounded crush rock, these ramps were designed to stop a semi truck traveling at 100 miles per hour and weighing up to 80,000 pounds.
These truck ramps were implemented in the late 1970s to early 1980s to prevent truckers from burning up their brakes while they descended from the Eisenhower Tunnel to the bend just before Silverthorne. The six ramps found along this particular stretch of mountain road are used approximately 70 times each year. However, with the use of automatic slack adjusters for proper function of brakes, truckers’ need for these ramps has decreased over the past 30 years. Other runaway truck ramps are found on eastbound I-70 in Mount Vernon Canyon near Denver, westbound U.S. 6 below Arapahoe Basin Ski Area, and two on westbound Vail Pass.
Keep in mind that runaway truck ramps see more use during the summer months as the high temperatures cause trucks’ brakes to burn and fail more quickly. Unfortunately, the summer months see much higher traffic volume of non-commercial vehicles on these particular stretches of road. If you see a semi truck emitting smoke, be sure to quickly move out of the way to allow it access to the truck ramps.