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Avoiding a Tire Blowout

By Jason Jantzi, Risk Management Consultant - Fire | 503-599-0389 or 800-285-5461

A sudden tire blowout can happen anywhere, anytime. When a blowout affects your daily schedule, it can be a frustrating situation, however when a tire blowout occurs during an emergency response it can pose a serious safety hazard to the crews and the public. According to data from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, blowouts cause more than 400 fatalities, over 10,000 injuries, and approximately 78,000 crashes per year. In the past two months SDIS has received notification of two serious fire apparatus crashes resulting from tire failures.

Experts advise drivers that keeping calm and maintaining control of the vehicle are the two key measures to recovering safely from a tire blowout. Here is a short list of what experts say drivers should do if they suddenly experience a flat tire:

  1. Don't Hit the Brakes: Slamming on the brakes will only make matters worse.
  2. Accelerate Slightly: It may sound counterintuitive, but slight acceleration will help you maintain control. Also, when you first realize you have a blowout, keep driving straight ahead.
  3. Grip the Steering Wheel: To avoid losing control, make sure your hands are in the 10 o'clock and 2 o'clock position and maintain a firm grasp on the steering wheel.
  4. Ease off the Accelerator: The goal is to gradually slow down as opposed to suddenly.
  5. Maintain Your Course: As the vehicle slows down, maintain your direction and stay in your lane.
  6. Apply the Brakes: When the vehicle slows to 30 mph, gently apply the brakes.
  7. Activate Your Right Turn Signal: Prepare to pull over to the right by turning on your signal. Never stop on the left side of the road, as it is the most dangerous place to be.
  8. Pull Over to the Right Side of Road: Once safely out of the way of other vehicles, bring your vehicle to a stop.
  9. Use Your Emergency Flashers: Let other motorists know your vehicle is out of commission by using emergency flashers and/or reflective cones placed around your vehicle.

Clearly the best course of action is to avoid having a tire blowout in the first place. Tire inspections and maintenance is your first line of defense. Here is a list of what you can do to lessen the chance of having a catastrophic tire failure while driving as recommended by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA) using the acronym TIRES.

TIRE INSPECTION Examine your tires EVERY DAY for: • Irregular treadwear • Cracking • Bulges • Cuts • Foreign objects • Other Damage • Inadequate tread depth and bring it to the attention of your mechanic.

INFLATION PRESSURE • GAUGE your tires COLD before each trip • Adjust as necessary Improper inflation pressure affects tire wear and fuel efficiency.

RIMS ONLY use approved tire/rim combinations of the appropriate width and diameter. Mismatched tire and rim components may explode and cause serious injury or death.

EXTREME LOADING Overloading or underinflation causes excessive heat build-up and internal structural damage that can lead to a tire failure.

SPEED DO NOT exceed your tires’ speed rating – Doing so will damage your tires and lead to premature failure.

At a minimum Oregon OSHA requires emergency vehicle checks to be done monthly whenever the vehicle is used infrequently.

OAR 437-002-0182

(26) Fire Apparatus Maintenance and Repair. Each employer must establish written records and procedures whereby apparatus has:

(a) At a minimum, a scheduled monthly maintenance check; or

(b) A maintenance check each time the apparatus is returned to the station following an emergency response, drill, or test drive.

(27) Tires.

(a) No motor vehicle must be operated on any tire that:

(A) Has body ply or belt material exposed through the tread or sidewall;

(B) Has any tread or sidewall separation;

(C) Is flat or has an audible leak; or

(D) Has a cut to the extent that the ply or belt material is exposed.

(b) Any tire on the front wheels of a bus, truck, or truck tractor must have a tread groove pattern depth of at least 4/32 of an inch when measured at any point on a major tread groove. The measurements must not be made where tie bars, humps, or fillets are located.

(c) Except as provided in 437-002-0182(27)(b), tires must have a tread groove pattern depth of at least 2/32 of an inch when measured in a major tread groove. The measurement must not be made where tie bars, humps or fillets are located.


DriveSafe Online Staff . (2020, September 22). Safely Handle Your Vehicle During a Tire Blowout. Retrieved from Drive Safe Online:

Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration . (2016, June 1). Commercial Tire Safety Tips. Retrieved from Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration :

Matthews, M. (2019, February 22). How to Handle a Tire Blowout. Retrieved from Automotive Fleet:

Oregon OSHA Staff. (2017, February). Division 2, Subdivision L, Fire Protection. Retrieved from