What's the strange-looking ramp off to the side on Idaho highways?

Picture this: you're headed southbound on Idaho’s Highway 55, winding through picturesque landscapes, when suddenly, you spot something unusual—a stretch of road outfitted with what looks like a steep gravel pit off to the side. Your curiosity piqued, you wonder, "What the heck is that?" 

Welcome to the world of runaway truck ramps, those unsung heroes of highway safety that often catch folks by surprise. These ramps are emergency road exits for semi-trucks—especially those grappling with gravity on the downhill of Idaho's steepest slopes.  

The first time you lay eyes on one, it's a head-scratcher. Are they construction zones? Oversized gravel pits? It's a common reaction because, let's be honest, not many folks have these ramps on their mental road trip bingo cards. 

Why do truckers use runaway-truck ramps? 

Runaway truck ramps are the safety nets of the asphalt, strategically placed on those stretches where the Idaho roads and highways take a nosedive. Ideally, they're the solution to a trucker's worst nightmare—brake failure on a steep descent.

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When a semi-truck's braking systems throw in the towel, these ramps become a safety retreat for steel cowboys hauling heavy loads.  

Can any Idahoan use a runaway-truck ramp in an emergency? 

Idaho’s frosty winter temps arrived right on schedule this year. This means snow, ice, and steep grades on Idaho highways will soon pose a dangerous risk for locals. 

While runaway truck ramps are often associated with commercial trucks, it may surprise you to know that non-commercial drivers could also require the use of these ramps in certain situations.  

Scroll on for four ways runaway-truck ramps can save your life this winter.

4 Ways Idaho's Runaway-Truck Ramps Can Your Life This Winter

Cruising Idaho's frosty roads is no easy feat for non-commercial drivers. Winter driving here is a wild card. But did you know that runaway-truck ramps aren't just random exits? They're a lifeline when highway slopes are slick and snow-packed.

Whether you use them regularly or you're planning a road-trip, take a look at how the Gem State's runaway-truck ramps could save your life this winter.

Gallery Credit: Ryan Antoinette Valenzuela

Does Idaho charge a fee for using runaway-truck ramps in emergencies? 

In short, no–non-commercial vehicles don’t have to pay a fee or fine for using a runaway truck ramp. But tracking down the answer required far more than a basic Google-search. When we couldn’t find the information with Idaho Dept. of Transportation, Idaho State Police, or 511 Idaho, we called the Idaho Trucker Association located in Meridian.  

To the best of their knowledge and experience, ITA says Idaho considers runaway-truck ramps to be an emergency resource for every highway driver. Just like you wouldn’t have to pay the state if you damaged a guard rail in an emergency, you wouldn't be charged for using a runaway-truck ramp.  

Scroll on for tips on navigating Idaho's beautiful but deadly Highway 70 & a look at the conditions locals are up against this winter!

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3 Idaho Winter 2023-2024 Predictions You Might Hate & 1 You'll Love

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10 Extreme Winter Weather Records Boise Could Break in 2023

For many of us Snowmageddon 2016-2017 is a not so distant memory. Some people really miss seeing that much white stuff in Boise. Others dread the possibility of it happening again. How common is it? We dug into some historical weather data from the National Weather Service to see just how extreme it was compared to some of the other winter extremes Boise's experienced.

Gallery Credit: Michelle Heart

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