Whether a fleet prefers steel or aluminum disc wheels, the good news is wheel manufacturers of both styles are offering lighter weight models in their product lineups to help carriers maximize payload.
Alcoa Wheel Products says an added benefit for fleets spec'ing aluminum wheels is that besides being lighter in weight, they generally require less maintenance than steel wheels. Since they don't rust or corrode, aluminum wheels do not have to be painted and refurbished periodically like steel wheels do. Alcoa notes, however, that many fleets do invest additional time in polishing their aluminum wheels to keep them looking their best.
Last year Alcoa introduced Dura-Bright wheels, which incorporate a patented surface treatment that enables the aluminum wheels to remain bright and shiny without polishing (go to www.dontpolish.com). The production line for these highly engineered wheels is now fully operational. Dura-Bright wheels can be acquired from truck builders as part of new vehicle assembly, or purchased through an Alcoa distributor or truck dealer for retrofitting.
To save more weight, Alcoa says another trend that's really taken off over the last year is fleet interest in Michelin's X One wide single radial. According to the tire manufacturer, the wide single not only saves weight, but also offers better stability and decreased rolling resistance for improved fuel economy. The popularity of Alcoa's 14-in. wheels combined with the wide single tires has grown dramatically, Alcoa notes, as fleets are choosing to retrofit their existing dual tire-and-wheel combinations to the lighter weight combo.
Accuride concurs that there's been increased interest in the wide single tire. The company originally worked with Michelin and Freightliner to develop its Duple-X-One 14-in. wheel, which was designed specifically for the new tire application. The company says one of these 14-in. wheels replaces two 8-1/4-in. wheels for a dramatic weight savings.
For the past two years, Accuride says, carriers have been testing the wide single on one or two trucks in their fleet. This year, however, the company is starting to get actual production orders for its Duple-X-One wheel as a result of increased sales of the X One tire.
Steel versions of the 14-in. wheel are also available. Motor Wheel, in fact, offers a complete line of wide-base steel wheels for hub- and stud-piloted applications in 22.5-in. diameter by 12.25-, 13- and 14-in. widths. The company notes that both the 13- and 14-in. width wheels work well for dual replacement applications. The wide base product line is available with load ratings from 10,500 to 12,300 lb.
For fleets that prefer steel wheels, Accuride says its lightweight 66-lb. steel wheel is now available in the marketplace from most trailer OEs, as well as several truck makers. The steel wheel uses Accuride's HSLA (high-strength, low-alloy steel) technology to reduce weight without sacrificing performance characteristics The company has also taken weight out of its standard 81-82-lb. wheel by changing its profile. The new version weighs between 76 and 78 lb.
Accuride notes that its customers have also continued to express an interest in products that reduce maintenance. Accuride has developed a powder coating technology for its steel disc wheels as an alternative to the standard acrylic e-coatings. Available as a special order item, the manufacturer reports, the powder coating is designed to last the life of the wheel, eliminating the need for refurbishing.
A new wheel product that will become available from Alcoa during the second quarter of the year is designed to address fleets' concerns about rim flange wear to aluminum wheels. Dura-Flange wheels are specially treated to dramatically increase an aluminum wheel's resistance to this phenomenon.
Owner-operators and others interested in custom Logo Wheels will now have more products from which to choose since Accuride is expanding its line of aluminum logo wheels. The company notes that the next-generation logo wheels for Freightliner trucks, for example, will have an enhanced look and will be lighter weight. Used to identify a truck by brand, proprietary OEM logos are cast into Accuride's aluminum wheels during manufacturing.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, CIRCLE NUMBER ON REPLY CARD:
Alcoa Wheel Products 316
Accuride Corp. 317
Hayes Lemmerz/Motor Wheel 319