Crowder's skidpad will prove invaluable
January 12, 2004
Speed can kill. Consider the driver gunning the engine to get up a steep wet hill but instead hydroplaning into a tree. Or, visualize another with pedal to the metal tearing along in the outside lane passing traffic in a blinding rainstorm. What if he had to apply his brakes?

"Five miles per hour makes all the difference in the world," said Sid Allen, Crowder College Division Chair Transport Training. He called attention to a speed limit that must be placed on people and vehicles in avoiding or controlling a skid. He said, "How to steer on wet pavements and keep the speed down to help control the vehicle is what we intend to teach [commercial] drivers."

Just how significant that limitation is was proven by Allen, himself during a demonstration at the dedication recently of the Missouri Center for Advanced Highway Safety, the skidpad, a $1.2 million driver training site located next to Crowder's truck driver training facility in Neosho.

A CFI driver Randy Cornell, not Allen, was at the wheel of a truck that specially was designed to avoid jack-knifing and to slide at a slower speed. Allen was in the passenger seat ready to apply the special brake that would initiate the skid without the driver's knowledge.

"I applied the brake when the truck exceeded the speed limit a little bit," Allen said. "We went farther than we wanted to."


Definition: The accumulation of water in a film under the footprint which causes a tire to lift from the road surface, losing traction. Hydroplaning is affected by vehicle speed, tread pattern and water depth.

To view these pictures, click on each thumbnail for a larger version.

The demonstation ended after the truck skidded several yards, slipped off of the 125,000 square foot polished concrete surface that had been flooded with water by two sprinklers along one side, and sunk its front axle into the saturated embankment. It was a vivid demonstration of how no amount of driver experience can stop a sliding rig traveling too fast for the conditions. Under normal highway conditions a dozen cars could have been crushed by the sideward movement of the rig, or given another scenario, the rig could have plunged off of a bridge.

Southwest Missouri Congressman and Majority Whip Roy Blunt and Senator Kit Bond were on hand to dedicate the new skidpad facility. The initial funding support came from Bond's inclusion of $500,000 in the FY2000 transportation budget with the final $750,000 needed to complete the project secured by Blunt.

Glenn F. Brown, chairman and CEO of Contract Freighters, Inc. (CFI) takes the podium during the dedication of the Crowder College skidpad. Brown and CFI worked with U.S. Congressman Roy Blunt and U.S. Senator Kit Bond, pictured from L-R, to get the skidpad project steamrolling. The skidpad, a 500,000 square foot range, is the largest of its kind in the midwest. It is composed of a 125,000 square foot polished concrete surface and an additional 375,000 square foot asphalt surface.

The Neosho-Joplin area is the home base of several national trucking companies who supported the creation of MOCAHS. Associate Dean of Instruction Dave Rockers expects thousands of commercial drivers to go through the one or two day course. A special Bobtail tractor will be provided for the training of law enforcement, linemen and school bus drivers. A one-day fee of $100 will be charged that is expected to cover the cost of operations.

Allen hopes that additional funding will be made available to create a catch basin to replace the ditch that currently funnels the water away. Before classes begin, two additional sprinklers will be installed to insure that both sides of the skidpad are hydrated.

The target date for test classes for different companies is February 1, 2004.

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