No free air

There's an unwritten rule in the tire media handbook that states, at least one month per year must be dedicated to the subject of tire inflation. The usual approach is to establish the danger of increased heat when tires are operated with insufficient air pressure in the upcoming summer months. Or you can take the road that as temperatures rise, the number of belt packages and other tire-related debris

There's an unwritten rule in the tire media handbook that states, “at least one month per year must be dedicated to the subject of tire inflation.” The usual approach is to establish the danger of increased heat when tires are operated with insufficient air pressure in the upcoming summer months.

Or you can take the road that as temperatures rise, the number of belt packages and other tire-related debris on the road increases as well. But rather than go on another rant about the consequences of underinflated tires, I felt it was time for a completely different perspective.

As someone with extensive experience in the air pressure maintenance field, I can tell you there are things fleets can do to encourage technicians to put a gauge to every tire. Inflate-through valve caps are definitely the top priority because removing caps to check tires is a major hassle and unlikely in many instances. Now that my family has sold the tire dealership, I can come clean and admit to hundreds of tires that I thumped because the fleet wouldn't invest in the proper valve cap.

Another guarantee for the old “boot-o-meter” is hand holes that are improperly aligned. On steel wheels, if the inner valve stem is not accessible because the outer wheel blocks it, it won't see an air gauge until it's moved. This is basically a driver education issue because they should check to make sure the valve stems occupy opposite hand holes on wheels with two openings when they inspect the tractor or trailer. For steel wheels with five hand holes, it's not a problem as long as the valve stems are in different openings.

Aluminum wheels are a little different because the only way the inner valve stem can be blocked is if the outer valve stem occupies the same hand hole. And since the openings on most aluminum wheels are significantly smaller, the inner tire is never getting checked unless it has an inflate-through valve cap. I've spent minutes trying to remove one standard metal valve cap from an inner aluminum wheel and the only reason I did it was because the driver was standing there watching. But if I was in the yard at the end of the day or nobody was looking — thump.

Where you park the equipment will also impact the effectiveness of an inflation pressure maintenance program. If you can leave about 10 feet behind a row of trailers, the service truck can move a lot faster when it can reach six or eight sets of tires without moving.

Backing them all the way up to the fence may seem like a good idea, but the tire man doesn't want to drag the hose down the entire length of each trailer to adjust every tire. Many years ago, if the pressure was within a few pounds, I would skip it until next week to avoid moving the service truck again.

Believe it or not, I know fleets that have decided the costs of inflating tires on a regular basis are higher than the costs of belt package separations, missing mud-flap brackets and downtime. They don't factor in the liability or risk of an accident if one hasn't happened yet.

But fleets that recognize the importance of inflation pressure maintenance should take the necessary steps to ensure that technicians have no excuses when asked to gauge and adjust every tire in need of a few pounds of air. After all, if they're spending the money to ensure tires are properly inflated, then it should be spent wisely so the tire dealer can be held accountable.

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