What's New In: Wheels

For some years now, steel and aluminum wheel manufacturers have been helping fleets successfully increase payload capacity by reducing the weight of their truck and trailer wheel products. Now they face new challenges, as '07 emissions-compliant equipment is putting extra weight back on trucks and fuel prices continue to climb upward. One of the most significant advances in tire and wheel development

For some years now, steel and aluminum wheel manufacturers have been helping fleets successfully increase payload capacity by reducing the weight of their truck and trailer wheel products. Now they face new challenges, as '07 emissions-compliant equipment is putting extra weight back on trucks and fuel prices continue to climb upward.

One of the most significant advances in tire and wheel development in the last decade has been the introduction of wide-base singles, which drastically reduce the weight of a tractor-trailer combination. In 2007, Alcoa Wheel Products improved an already great weight-saving product by taking an additional 3 lb. out of its all-aluminum14-in. wheel. The former 71-lb. wide-base model is now just 68 lb.

Victor Marquez, director of marketing for commercial vehicle wheels at Alcoa, says: “Wide base wheel and tire assemblies feature tires with half as many flexing sidewalls as a set of duals. Less tire flexing leads to greater fuel efficiency…typically a savings of 3% to 7%.”

Outfitting an entire truck with Alcoa 14-in. wide base wheels means big weight savings, Marquez points out: “324 lb. per axle or 1,296 for the whole rig. And although Alcoa has lowered the weight of each wheel, they are still just as strong with a load rating of 12,800 lb.”

Also for 2007, Marquez notes that Alcoa's Dura-Bright wheels, previously available only in a polished version, are now offered in a brushed version as well. Dura-Bright wheels, he explains, save fleets time and money because they never need to be polished. “Soap and water is all you need for a long-lasting beautiful shine. And since Dura-Bright penetrates the aluminum, it won't crack, chip, peel or corrode.”

All Alcoa aluminum wheels are constructed with a one-piece forged design that is four times stronger than a disc steel wheel, according to the manufacturer. They also run up to three times cooler than steel wheels for improved brake and tire life.

Taking weight out of its wheel products has also been a focus for Accuride Corp. Early this year the company announced it was investing nearly $25 million in its aluminum wheel business, which included the building of two new state-of-the-art hydraulic presses, plus other tactical improvements to facilities and equipment. The new press cells are expected to be completed and operational by the first quarter of 2008.

In addition to the aluminum wheel expansion project, Accuride introduced a new light-weight steel wheel called Accu-Lite last spring. Larry Taylor, sr. vp-sales & marketing, says: “As new emission standards are resulting in weight being added to vehicles, we knew our customers needed an easy solution for counterbalancing the added weight. We designed Accu-Lite wheels as a weight reduction solution…so they could maximize payload and fuel savings without reducing load ratings.”

Accu-Lite steel wheels, Taylor notes, are eight pounds lighter than Accuride's previous design, making them the lightest available version of industry-standard two- and five-hand-hold 22.5 × 8.25 steel wheels. The two-hand-hold Accu-Lite wheel weighs 70 lb., while the five-hand-hole design is 68 lb.

“Our engineers researched, designed, and developed Accu-Lite using high-strength, low-alloy steel coupled with state-of-the-art welding and metal forming technology to yield a wheel that is optimum in strength but light in weight,” says Phil Newsome, vp-wheel technology. “The Accu-Lite wheel performance was validated with rigorous lab testing in accordance with SAE and Accuride Corporation standards.”

Hayes Lemmerz, a global supplier of steel wheels for commercial vehicles, offers fleets a line of wide-base tubeless wheels that the manufacturer says is ideal for weight sensitive applications. For tubeless dual replacement applications, the company reports weight savings up to 166 lb. per axle can be achieved.

In addition to weight savings, other benefits of wide base wheels, according to Hayes Lemmerz, are the ability to increase revenue-producing payload and improve fuel economy; less tire wear since the wider tires provide better road contact; and higher load applications, with load ratings of up to 12,500 lb. being reported. The company also points out its wide-base steel wheels are less expensive than comparable aluminum models and require less hardware for stud-piloted applications, resulting in lower inventory costs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEB SITES:

ALCOA WHEEL PRODUCTS
www.alcoawheels.com

ACCURIDE CORP.
www.accuridecorp.com

HAYES LEMMERZ (MOTOR WHEEL)

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