Why do some semi-trucks have spikes on the wheels? You may have seen them before—you’re traveling down the highway, look to your left or right, and notice that the 18-wheeler beside you has a cluster of shiny metal spikes attached to the wheel.
What you’re seeing is usually referred to as wheel spikes, but they’re actually spiked lug nut covers. These attention-grabbing metallic spikes can be intimidating, without doubt. But are they dangerous? Let’s look at what wheel spikes really are, what they do, and whether or not they’re dangerous to occupants of other vehicles on the road.
What Are Wheel Spikes and Are They Dangerous?
When you pass a vehicle 30 times the weight of your own car on the highway—and find that this vehicle also has menacing metal spikes reaching from its tires—it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary to feel just a little nervous. Although their appearance is threatening, spiked wheels pose almost no danger to other cars on the road. Their length of only a few inches is rarely enough to come into contact with another vehicle. And if the truck does get too close and make contact with a car beside it, the weak material (often aluminum, and sometimes even plastic) used to manufacture wheel spikes will crumble quickly on force of impact. At most, your vehicle may suffer a few scratches.
But what is the purpose of spiked lug nut covers? Why do some truck drivers put spikes on their semi-truck wheels? There are a few theories about why some truck drivers choose spiked lug nut covers over a more traditional rounded or flattened cover.
Lug nut covers are necessary to protect wheel bolts from the elements—moisture, mud, road debris, oil, dust, and bumps and scrapes from use can cause rust or damage. Over time, people began to get more creative with the types of lug nut covers they put on all types of vehicles, not just tractor-trailers. The spiked, glossy lug nut was often associated with vehicles meant to look more intimidating, like muscle cars or big trucks. The “cool” factor may play a role in their use on 18-wheelers—in addition to the warning it sends other drivers to keep their distance from these larger vehicles. It’s also thought that the spiked shape may be able to more easily whisk away grime and dust to prevent buildup.
In sum, the spikes on semi wheels may be used to:
- Encourage other drivers to give the truck more room and avoid blind spots
- Protect wheel bolts from becoming damaged or corroded
- Provide a better shield from ice, dirt, grime, and dust build-up
- Add a “cooler” appearance to the semi-truck
It’s not illegal to use spiked lug nut covers on a tractor-trailer. Unless the trucking company they work for prohibits the use of spikes, semi drivers can make the choice to use spikes on their wheels—whether for reasons related to utility or appearance. There are, however, important safety regulations that all big rig owners and operators must follow to ensure that wheels and tires are used in their safest conditions. Violating any of the legal requirements is a serious trucking safety hazard. Let’s look at a few of the federally-mandated regulations with which truck drivers have a duty to comply.
What Are Wheel and Tire Requirements for Semi-Trucks?
The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) issues regulations for commercial trucks and drivers in the United States. It is critical that tractor-trailer owners and operators follow all FMCSA tire and wheel regulations. Tire or wheel failure is one of the leading causes of truck accidents among accidents caused by factors other than driver error.
Tire regulations for commercial truck drivers include:
- A truck may not be driven on leaking or flat tires.
- No tire may have body ply or belt material exposed through the tread or sidewall.
- No tire may have any tread or sidewall separation.
- All tires must meet the tire inflation standards for the vehicle.
- All tires must meet tread groove pattern depth requirements for the vehicle.
- No tire may carry a weight greater than the limit defined by the manufacturer or FMCSA.
And FMCSA wheel regulations state that:
- Wheels and rims cannot be driven when cracked or broken.
- The stud or bolt holes on the wheel must be of regulation shape and size (not “out of round”).
- Nuts or bolts cannot be missing or loose.
If any of these federal regulations are violated, there is serious risk of a mechanical failure that could lead to a tractor-trailer accident. When a wheel or tire fails on the road, a number of serious problems can arise, endangering the life of the truck’s driver in addition to others on the road nearby. A wheel or tire issue may be the result of poor maintenance practices, underinflating or overinflating, defective manufacturing, a lack of proper trucking company policies, overloading, or other forms of negligence. The following types of accidents can result after a semi wheel or tire malfunction:
- Tire blowout
- Loss of vehicle control
- Jackknife accident
- Rollover accident
- Underride or override accident
How Truck Accident Lawyers Fight for Highway Safety
Every year in the United States, hundreds of thousands of accidents involving large trucks occur on our roads and highways. There were roughly 510,000 police-reported crashes involving large trucks in 2019. Our state of Mississippi has suffered too many injuries and deaths resulting from semi-involved collisions. Most of these accidents are preventable. Through the practice of truck accident law, we are able to bring attention to some of the most important safety issues affecting drivers in our state and nation.
We believe safer truckers make safer roadways. At Pittman, Roberts & Welsh, PLLC, we fight to hold negligent trucking companies, owners, manufacturers, and operators accountable for any negligence that puts human lives at risk. If you were involved in a collision with a tractor-trailer, reach out to our law firm with questions. An experienced truck accident lawyer from our team of attorneys will be glad to discuss the legal options available to you and your family after an accident.