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Deadly big rig-related accidents on rise

Federal regulators are pledging to find a way to reverse the disturbing trend
Behind the increase in deadly truck tire blowouts 02:37

The number of deadly accidents related to big-rig tires is on the rise.

Most tires on those trucks are not meant to handle maximum constant speeds over 75 mph, but truckers across the country are exceeding that limit. Federal investigators believe it's leading to crashes and pledge to find a way to reverse the disturbing trend, reports CBS News correspondent Jeff Pegues.

Between 2009 and 2013, heavy trucks and buses were responsible for 14,000 fatal accidents. According to government figures, 223 of those fatalities were related to heavy truck tires.

Last month, a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration's (NHTSA) investigation into multiple Michelin tire blowouts found that high speeds and a lack of maintenance were to blame.

Agency staffers point specifically to state laws claiming the "more likely explanation of failures is the increase in maximum speed limits in several states."

According to NHTSA, no truck tire is rated in excess of 81 mph and most are rated at 75 mph, but 16 states have truck speeds equal to or greater than 75 miles per hour; four even go beyond that, to 80 mph.

The American Trucking Association (ATA) says it's been warning of the dangers for years.

"Raising speed limits at the state level is a bad idea beyond 65 mph," ATA executive vice president Dave Osiecki said.

He said the industry has been asking the federal government to regulate speed with the use of electronic limiters that would cap a truck's top speed at 65 mph. Right now, 70 percent of trucking companies limit their drivers, but it's that 30 percent they want regulated.

"Sixty-five mph versus 75 mph operating speed -- the stopping distance is significantly different," Osiecki said. "So it's a win, win, win, if we in the industry control the speed of our trucks and we get the help of our government."

NHTSA said it is developing a new rule to require those special limiters and it's working to change labeling requirements on tires to include the tire's maximum safe speed.

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