Tyre maintenance and safety essentials

All too often trucks show various wheel and suspension problems

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All too often trucks show various wheel and suspension problems, which are costly and pose a safety risk not only to the truck and its driver but also to other road users

Common faults found in field studies include incorrect application of tyres, poor maintenance of vehicles and tyres, vehicles in shocking condition and people foolishly trying to get too much out of a tyre and running it past its practical and safe usability.

Truck tyre maintenance is often overlooked, but it is one of the key contributing factors to running a fleet efficiently and as cost effectively as possible.

This may seem to be a no brainer for most fleet operators, but the truth of the matter is that in South Africa (SA), the rapid expansion of the logistics industry means that there are fewer well informed fleet owners and operators.

Tyre maintenance starts with a good quality tyre, which can be new or retreaded.

In our 30 years’ experience, retreaded tyres perform just as well as new tyres, as long as the tyres are retreaded by a reputable factory that has stringent quality standards.

Retreaded tyre safety factors depend on the quality and age of the casings used and the integrity of the initial inspection performed to determine the quality of the casing used.

Second to that is pressure maintenance and regular wheel alignment and balancing. Tyre pressure is by far the most overlooked aspect and this is where the majority of tyre damage and related incidences stem from.

An incorrectly inflated tyre results in various problems which adversely affect vehicle handling and directly affect tyre life and safety.

Not only is the weight of the load not supported, but the wear and tear on suspension parts and extra strain on the engine means that the entire trucks longevity is compromised.

Heat buildup is often the primary cause that leads to a blowout. Blowouts are not only costly, as you may well lose a perfectly good tyre, but carry breakdown costs and the penalty fees associated with late delivery.

The most important factor regarding tyre inflation is obviously the cost saving associated with rolling resistance and the cost per kilometre rate, which also reduces fuel costs.

Second to inflation pressure, wheel alignment is another aspect of great importance. From our case studies we have determined that a tyre that is misaligned can result in a reduction of around 7% in tread life. This is due to added stresses, which cause the casing to deteriorate faster.

A truck that has tandem axles means that aligning only the front end is only doing part of the job, so it is always recommended to align all the axles whenever alignment is performed. Poor alignment also results in the tyre running outside of its intended rotational plane meaning it is being dragged, resulting in an alarming rate of irregular wear.

Fitting new tyres without repairing worn or damaged suspension parts is another costly error as this results in dramatically reduced tyre life.

Poor suspension also means that your wheels will start to track incorrectly immediately after fitment and this can cause your tyres to exhibit unusual patterns such as cupping, feathering, diagonal wipe and camber wear.

We recommend that at the first sign of such symptoms you send your truck and trailer to a service centre for a detailed suspension health check.

Route study is a widely forgotten part of fleet management and with the conditions of the roads in SA today is becoming more and more important. While this exercise may be time consuming and the results not immediately identifiable, the savings can be significant. Just identifying alternative routes that are in a better condition will reduce both tyre damage and vehicle maintenance.

The need for driver education has become more apparent as we see more road carnage due to negligence and poorly maintained vehicles.

Legally an owner and driver could be up for culpable homicide if the vehicle causes an accident due to proven negligence.

It is the responsibility of fleet owners and managers to take a driver to a level of competence that ensures confidence in handling his/her vehicle. A driver should be educated in all aspects of maintenance related to safety and what to do in a critical situations, such as a slowly deflating a tyre to prevent an actual blowout.

Twice a year, around Christmas and Easter, everyone is outraged by the number of lives that are lost on the roads, but if you look at a daily rate throughout the year it becomes apparent that road safety is not important enough, either to the lawmakers or the road users. Transporters should urgently change their attitude surrounding their responsibility, consider the rigs they use and the little effort it takes to properly maintain a rig – the cost benefits far outweigh ignoring the problems.

Sharon Styger - Marketing Executive Auto and Truck Tyres

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