Footage of brakeless trucks using emergency stop pits

Originally published at: Footage of brakeless trucks using emergency stop pits | Boing Boing


I’ve seen these types of gravel pits intended to stop trucks before but its kinda cool seeing how effective they are at stopping them :slight_smile:


Video link for the BBS


I’ve seen those pits for years, but have never seen a truck use one. This was cool. Also cool to see how they got the truck out.


Not the time to be worrying if your load of pipe is properly secured.


What is it about brakes that this is even necessary? Don’t most trucks undergo regular tune ups to avoid things like bad brakes?


I assume it has to do with the geography of a particular area, for example an area with a steep grade. If a truck or car is breaking often the disk breaks can overheat and the vehicle can lose the ability to stop. This actually happened to my mom years ago during a road trip, she was driving behind my dad who was in another car and for about 30 mins she wasn’t able to stop at all as we were going through a mountainous section of road. Thankfully there were few cars and by the time we got to a small town the breaks had cooled off enough for her to stop.

If the car has a manual transmission you can downshift to slow the vehicle down to some extent, which is what my mom did but it will not be able to slow the car to the point of stopping and can still be dangerous. If something like this ever happens to anyone here the best thing you can do is keep your cool, use the breaks as little as possible to give them a lot of time to cool off.


Also, don’t large trucks have air-brakes - and the hydraulic pressure needed to operate them can go down more than is safe if repeatedly used and there is even a small leak in the system that would not be apparent in normal braking on level surfaces. (???)

(Also - please change ‘breaking’ and ‘breaks’ to ‘braking’ and ‘brakes’ before we end up in a world where nobody knows what brake means.)


I can’t speak to breaking in large trucks, not my area of knowledge but the airbreaks are a good point. Had forgotten about those, i presume that there’s always a chance of failure considering that these pits are a thing.

Just in case i checked to see what kind of info there is on these ramps:

The second link does mention proper maintenance is important, and also driver knowledge on how to go down steep grades. There also seems to be a fee/fine for trucks that end up using the ramps.

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when driving across the mountain range north to south in puerto rico, occasionally you’ll see is a long steep grassy uphill ramp for runaway vehicles. i always thought it would be ineffective, because if your brakes have gone what is to prevent you from rolling out of control back down that ramp, at a slower speed, of course? one problem at a time, i guess.


I assumed this was a rare occurrence, but that first one shows two trucks using the same ramp moments apart.


Here’s a video from Colorado’s I-70 continental divide pass route that’s more satisfying, albeit not as clear. The main failure cause is due to the brake pad shoe being fully eaten away.


Trucks are equipped with parking brakes just like cars (in the US this seems to be called and Emergency Brake which isn’t entirely wrong, but Parking Brake is more descriptive of what it actually is).

Both brake systems are operated by air pressure but in opposite senses.

The service brakes (the main brakes) are operated by the application of air pressure as you might expect, but the parking brake is held open by air pressure. If there is no air pressure to it, it will apply itself automatically.


“I found it surprisingly unsatisfying and liked that feeling so much I would now like to be unexpectedly dissatisfied again.”

I suspect that “dissatisfying” is the objective. :slight_smile:

I wonder what a trucker does if their brakes fail and the run-off lane is blocked; do they have to do a “Speed” until they reach the next run-off?


well thanks! now i am glad i posed the question. appreciate the info!


This twists my brain a little bit.

It seems to me that this is a disincentive to use the ramp and to chance some other solution which will probably puts lives at risk.

Somethin’ somethin’ socialism…


The first source i looked at was an European one and they mentioned the fine/fee. I presume this changes depending on the country, from what i could tell in the US there is no such thing beyond getting the truck towed out.


Statistics. You have two factors:

  1. There is a stupendous amount of trucks driving around every given second.
  2. A truck with broken brakes on a steep road can kill quite a few people and do an enormous amount of damage.

So even when the chance of a truck’s brakes failing is very small thanks to #1 it will still occasionally happen and thanks to #2 that carries a significant risk. So if you have a lot of trucks on a lot of steep roads you want to think about a solution like this.


It seems to me that these vehicles are far too dangerous to allow on the highways. Either improve the technology or ship by rail.


Truck drivers, especially ones moving heavy loads, need to very careful about how they manage speed on mountain passes. Brakes pads wear slowly and evenly until they are overheated then they can wear VERY rapidly. This is one reason why some drivers like having trucks equipped with Jake brakes (a type of braking that uses engine compression to slow the truck). Jake brakes are loud and illegal in some places but they spare the brake pads.