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Can RVs Use Runaway Truck Ramps?

Can RVs Use Runaway Truck Ramps?

Traversing a mountain pass can provide you with an opportunity to capture some incredible photographs. However, mountain passes can also test your brakes, transmission and engine. You can be in a grave situation if your brakes fail on a decline. Therefore, runaway truck ramps are familiar sights along roads in mountainous areas. 

So what do you do if you and your RV can’t stop going down a mountain? Can RVs use runaway truck ramps? Let’s find out!

What happens when a driver is forced to use a runaway truck ramp?

What Is a Runaway Truck Ramp?

A runaway truck ramp is a gravel or sand lane typically on the right side of the road. These safety mechanisms are designed to primarily help large vehicles like semi-trucks that have lost their ability to slow down or stop when traveling a steep grade, typically a mountain or very abrupt hill. They’re highly effective ways of quickly and efficiently bringing even the largest vehicles to a stop.

You most commonly see runaway truck ramps in mountainous regions. Mountain passes often have downgrades that can last for several miles. If drivers aren’t careful, they can burn through their brakes and lose their ability to reduce speed or stop.

Runaway truck ramps are typically installed in a series, with multiple ramps built out over several miles. This way, large vehicles don’t have to go too far without brakes, nor do they run out of critical opportunities to stop in an emergency.

What Happens When You Use a Runaway Truck Ramp?

If you need a runaway truck ramp, prepare for a sudden stop. A runaway truck ramp lane is a pit of gravel or sand that gets deeper the further you go. This allows the ramp to absorb the out-of-control vehicle’s forward momentum and quickly stop it. No matter where you’re sitting in the vehicle, it will be a quick and intense stop.

In the blink of an eye, you and your vehicle will buck, heave, shake, and finally halt on the runaway truck ramp. However, you’ll likely have a cloud of dust and debris surrounding you and your vehicle. A bit of dust, your tow bill, and the cost of any damages are nominal prices to pay to ensure the safety of your passengers and other drivers on the road.

Runaway truck ramp sign on downhill highway
RVers are allowed to use runaway truck ramps in case of brake failure.

Can RVs Use Runaway Truck Ramps?

Yes, Runaway truck ramps are for all vehicles that cannot stop, including RVs. Whether you have a driveable or towable RV, you should use a runaway truck ramp if you cannot stop.

Your brakes aren’t likely to fix themselves, and bypassing a runaway truck ramp endangers your life and the other drivers on the road. The longer you go without brakes, the more speed and momentum you’ll gain, intensifying any accident.

It is important to note that truck ramps typically do significant and sometimes irreparable damage to the vehicle they stop. However, they save the driver’s life and maybe that of other drivers on the road.

Why Would You Use a Runaway Truck Ramp for Your RV?

The larger and heavier the vehicle the more mass there is to stop and the harder brake systems need to work. Because of this larger vehicles are more likely to burn up brakes or have a brake failure on steep grades. This includes motorhomes and trucks towing RV’s.

It is very important to regularly check the condition of your RV brakes. Regardless if you’re driving a Class A motorhome or towing a travel trailer, your braking system is essential to safe driving.

If towing, make sure that both the brakes on the tow vehicle and the trailer or dolly are in good condition. If a camper trailer loses its brakes, it will overwork the brake system of the truck or SUV towing it and possibly make it fail as well.

Brake loss can come from a number of conditions. Rusted brake lines, worn brake pads, seized brakes, or poor electrical connections in your chassis or with your trailer brake controller are just some of the potential reasons for failures. Brakes can also fail just because they get too hot. This is called brake fade because it feels like they are fading out the harder you press. Because of this keeping speed down, to begin with, is essential to help prevent brake fade.

By using a runaway truck ramp, the vehicle eliminates any potential risks of an accident by quickly coming to a stop. It may not be a pleasant experience, but it beats the alternative of causing an intense accident or flying off the side of a mountain.

Pro Tip: We took a closer look at Do RVs Need to Obey Truck Speed Limits? Find out if you need to slow down when driving in the mountains.

Close up on sand runaway truck ramp
Trucks, cars, and RVs are all allowed to use a runaway truck ramp in case of emergency.

How Do You Get on a Runaway Ramp in an RV?

Runaway truck ramps typically sit on the right-hand side of the road. This placement helps vehicles avoid crossing traffic or causing an accident trying to get to them. If you have lost your ability to slow your RV, turn on your flashers and get into the furthest right lane.

You should start looking for signs indicating you’re approaching a runaway truck ramp and honk your horn to get the attention of other drivers. This can help them move out of your way and avoid an accident. Once you see the runaway truck ramp in the distance, you’ll want to brace for impact.

Ensure everyone in the vehicle is wearing their seat belts correctly and sitting upright in their seats. The driver will want to firmly, but not too firmly, hold the steering wheel as the vehicle approaches the truck ramp. The front tires will quickly sink into the gravel or sand once the vehicle enters the ramp. In a matter of seconds, the RV will come to a screeching halt on the truck ramp.

Runaway truck ramp in one mile sign along downhill hightway
While there is no cost to use a runaway truck ramp, it will be expensive to get towed out after.

What Do You Do Once You’re Stopped and Safe?

Once your vehicle comes to a complete stop on a truck ramp, take a deep breath. It’s likely going to be a rather stressful experience. Your adrenaline will probably be pumping, but check on yourself and your fellow passengers. Ensure they’re safe and that there are no injuries.

Once you have confirmed everyone is safe, you can examine the situation. Use your mirrors to check the placement of the vehicle in the truck lane and assess whether it’s safe to get out. When in doubt, call 911 and remain in your vehicle until help arrives. Hopefully, a fellow driver who witnessed the situation will stop and offer support to get you and your passengers into a safe location.

Once everyone is safe, you’ll need to call your insurance company and report the accident. They’ll likely start the process of organizing a tow truck to rescue you and your RV. However, because runaway truck ramps stop RVs, you should expect tremendous damage to the underside of your vehicle and RV. There’s a chance you won’t drive them away from the accident.

How Much Does It Cost to Use a Runaway Truck Ramp? 

There is no charge for using a runaway truck ramp. However, getting rescued from a runaway truck ramp is incredibly expensive. The larger the vehicle, the more expensive it’s going to be. Rescue bills can be upwards of $4,000 to $10,000 for large vehicles and trailers. 

Not only do you have to pay for the rescuing of your vehicle and trailer, but you also have to pay for the costs of any repairs. Depending on your insurance, this can be hundreds or even thousands of additional dollars out of your bank account. However, it’s better to be stuck with a massive repair bill than to be in a severe accident that could potentially be fatal.

Pro Tip: If you have break failure while driving your RV, use this guide on Fixing RV Trailer Brakes After Failure In Mountains.

Close up on sandy runaway truck ramp along highway.
Always inspect your RV brakes before heading out on your drive to avoid needing a runaway truck ramp.

How Can You Prevent Using a Runaway Truck Ramp?

The best way to avoid using a runaway truck ramp is to inspect your brakes and have a capable towing vehicle. Inspecting your brakes is essential if you’re planning a trip where your route will take you through the mountains. If you wait until you get to the top of a hill to inspect your brakes, it’s far too late. Stay alive by planning and checking your brakes.

Many modern diesel trucks come with exhaust brakes. These braking systems allow the vehicle’s engine and exhaust systems to keep the vehicle’s speed in check. In many instances, drivers rarely need to touch their brake pedal to keep their speeds under control. A capable towing vehicle isn’t just about towing a heavy load but also stopping it when necessary.

My Runaway Truck Ramp Experience

Do All Highways Have Runaway Truck Ramps? 

You won’t find runaway truck ramps everywhere. They’re most common in the country’s western, more mountainous regions but also in the smoky mountains. There’s practically no need for a runaway truck ramp in the Midwest and Great Plains. However, some are along the east coast, where mountains and hills are more prominent.

If you’re without brakes and you see a runaway truck ramp, use it. It’s better to deal with the repair bills than to put you and others on the road in a dangerous situation. Inspect your brakes regularly and ensure they’re working so you can stop your RV.

Have you ever seen runaway truck ramps on your adventures? Tell us in the comments!

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About Tom Morton

Tom, a Pacific Northwest native, is our technical genius. Born in Washington and raised in Alaska before settling in Michigan. He's the man who keeps our operation running, both figuratively and literally.

With a background in Electrical Engineering, Tom specializes in RV solar systems and lithium batteries. He made history as the first documented individual to use a Tesla battery module as an RV battery. Tom has personally assisted countless RVers with system installations and has educated thousands more through his videos and articles.

Cinematography is another of Tom's passions, showcased in his work on the Go North series. You can see his camera skills on display in The RVers TV show on Discovery Channel and PBS where he also stars as a co-host.

Tom's mechanical expertise extends beyond RVs to boats, planes, and all things mechanical. He's renowned for taking on maintenance and repair projects single-handedly and is often spotted underneath RVs, making him the technical backbone of our endeavors.

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