Why Do Semi Trucks Have Spikes on Wheels

May 17, 2022


Have you ever seen semi-trucks with spikes on wheels and wondered what purpose those spikes could be serving apart from intimidating you? That you’re in a small car with a gigantic 18-wheeler driving just beside you can be intimidating enough for many. Now, add spiked wheels to the mix, and you may be tempted to park and wait until the truck goes out of sight.

But why? Why do semi-trucks have spikes on wheels?

The primary reason semi-trucks have spikes on wheels is to protect their lug nuts from the elements . Truck drivers also spike their wheels to deter other motorists from getting too close to them. And, of course, spiked wheels give a rugged personality to the trucks appearance.

But for the curious mind, you know you won’t stop there because there are more questions. Your mind comes up with questions like, aren’t these spikes dangerous? Are they even legal? 

These questions may pop up in your mind as you try to wrap your head around why a semi-truck, which already has an intimidating size, would have spikes on wheels.

So, we dedicate this piece to answering why semi-trucks have spikes on wheels and any other related questions. 

Purpose of Semi-Truck Wheel Spikes

Contrary to what your primal instincts might suggest, spikes on semi-truck wheels are not there to intimidate or scare you off the road. Instead, the purposes of semi-truck wheel spikes are:

1. To prevent other motorists from getting too close

Semi-trucks have blindspots all over. Blindspots are spaces around the truck where the truck driver can’t see. When smaller vehicles get stuck in these blind spots, there’s no telling what could happen. 

This is why truckers spike their wheels to discourage motorists who are brave enough (or silly enough) to drive too close to their semi-trucks. So, with the spiked truck wheels on, other motorists keep a safe distance, and accidents have reduced chances of happening. Everyone goes home safe and happy.

2. To protect wheel lug nuts from the elements.

Truckers also place spikes on their wheels to protect the lug nuts from the elements. To add some context, a truck can be on the road for close to 24 hours when two drivers take turns to drive it. In 24 hours, going at 60 miles-per-hour, the truck covers 1440 miles. That’s enough distance to guarantee that the truck traverses various weather and environmental elements in one day.

And with this level of exposure to the elements, the lug nuts on the wheels may begin to rust or lose their aesthetics. This is where the spikes come in; to protect the lug nuts as the truck traverses various weather and environmental conditions.

3. Just for the looks

Let’s not kid ourselves. Spike-shaped covers aren’t the first things that come to mind when you want to protect lug nuts from the elements. You could use lug nut covers shaped like lug nuts or even hemispherical; nothing too dramatic.

So the purpose of having spikes on wheels is more for the cosmetics than the protection. 

That said, we can’t dispute that spikes on truck wheels ‌add some personality to the truck. 

Are Truck Wheel Spikes Dangerous?

The spikes on truck wheels are often made of plastic or aluminum alloys, none of which are strong enough to come at you, puncture your car, and pierce you. And really, you should be more worried about a collision from the truck itself than you should be about the spikes. But if you’re more concerned about the spikes, it is understandable. 

Truck wheel spikes are not as dangerous as they look. They may cause scratches to vehicles during contact but won’t do much more. The designers of these spikes designed them so that they can break off during hard contacts instead of doing damage to the wheel lug nuts or the object of collision.

However, we strongly advise anyone reading this who has a taste for the dangerous not to test this theory out by having a truck with spiked wheels driven by their legs. Don’t even try to test it out with you in a car. 

Are Semi-Truck Spiked Wheels Legal?

Despite the intimidating looks of spikes on the wheels of semi-trucks, there’s only a little information on laws concerning them.

However, the state of Washington has it that no “vehicle shall be equipped with wheel nuts, hub caps, or wheel discs extending outside the body of the vehicle when viewed from directly above.” That includes spikes.

Hawaii has something similar. According to a legislation it passed in 2015, the definition of a dangerous wheel is this:

 “any wheel, wheel cover, hubcap, lug nut cover or cap, prong, or any ornamentation affixed to any of the aforementioned items that extends at least four inches beyond the portion of the wheel rim that extends furthest away from the vehicle and that may cause injury or property damage by minimal contact with a person or object.”

Despite the little information on the laws surrounding spikes on truck wheels, it only takes common sense to know that your spikes shouldn’t be too long. Not only can they injure a pedestrian, but they can also be distracting to other motorists on the road.

It is possible to have knee-jerk moments that could cause a regular motorist to lose control of their vehicle if the spiked wheels of a truck pull up close to it. 

Another thing that spiked wheels do is contribute to what people think about your company brand. So, if you own a trucking company, and you don’t want to paint an image of intimidation, tend towards having your lug nuts covers in other shapes.

Can Regular Motorists Have Spiked Wheels?

While regular motorists can have spiked wheels, spikes on the wheels of small cars can look slightly out of place. Spikes on the wheels of some vans may also not match. Maybe you may consider having spikes on your wheels if you own a pickup truck.

That said, if spikes on wheels are what you want for your car, regardless of the size, then go for it. Just make sure you know what the laws of your state have to say about how long they can be.

Conclusion

Remember, the spikes on semi-trucks are not there to intimidate you. Instead, truckers place spikes on their semi-truck wheels for aesthetics, to deter motorists from getting too close, and protect the lug nuts of their wheels.

Also, the spikes are not as dangerous as they look. They are made of plastic that can easily break off so that no lasting damage is done to other motorists on the road. 

About the author

I’m Luis Uribe, author of this website. I am the owner and head publisher for Trucker Daily and a freight brokerage Total Connection Logistics. I have been in and around the trucking industry for over 15 years. It is my mission with Trucker daily to equip truck drivers, with the latest in industry updates, news, and helpful tips to help further your trucking career and life. Whether you are a truck driving veteran, or beginner, you will find information on this site to save you a lot of time in your driving journey.

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