SILVERTHORNE – As Jesse Terrell came out of the Eisenhower Tunnel on his way home from Denver, it didn’t take long for him to realize something was wrong.
An 18-wheeler in the far right lane was quickly gaining speed, a thick cloud of smoke coming from its failing brakes.
“He was starting to get upwards of 80, 85 miles an hour,” says Terrell. “The smell was horrible, just that burning rubber, and that’s when I knew, oh, his brakes are now gone.”
Terrell says the truck wobbled all the way up, before sliding back down and coming to a rest.
“I was pretty impressed with how he kept control,” he says. “It definitely seemed like he had his head on his shoulders.”
The two heavy duty truck towing companies based out of Silverthorne say drivers use that ramp about 40 times per year.
Colorado State Patrol says there is a misconception among truckers that they’ll be punished for using the ramps.
“If a runaway vehicle ramp is used for it’s intended purpose, there are no citations or fines issued for using it. This has been a very common question, including from truck drivers/companies in the wake of this crash, and the urban legend or myth or whatever it should be called is simply not true. If that ramp is needed, we WANT it to be used, and certainly there should never be a fear of using it properly,” wrote Trooper Josh Lewis.
But those in the trucking community say the costs associated with the ramps, often deter truckers.
Companies are required to pay for their truck to be removed, as well as for any damage caused.
“A lot of the drivers would rather come to a complete stop, versus hitting one of those ramps and damaging their truck,” says Charles Sergel.
Sergel owns Quick Wrench Mobile, which repairs trucks along I-70.
He says getting towed out of a runaway ramp can cost between $4,000 – $10,000.
“It’s expensive, and most of these drivers don’t have the money in their pocket to be able to cover that.”
Despite that, he tells truckers to use them if necessary.
“It’s better than hurting people. Any way can assist to keep the highways safe, that’s what we’re gonna do, we’re going to tell these drivers to use the ramps, stop trusting your brakes when they’re smoking.”