Like the tires mounted on them, heavy-duty wheels can increasingly be selected by considering various specific advantages engineered into them — for everything from lighter weight to maintenance-friendly finishes. Not surprisingly, major wheel manufacturers are missing no opportunity to put material and manufacturing technologies to work to ensure their product offerings deliver greater value to fleet owners and truck operators.
For example, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products said the LvL One aluminum wheel it rolled out earlier this year boasts not only new materials and a new design, but also a new manufacturing process. It will eventually replace Alcoa's existing line of 24.5 × 8.25 truck wheels — but without a price increase, the manufacturer emphasized.
“Our intent from the beginning was to bring this new product offering into the core part of the wheel market we serve, not bring it in as a premium product,” said Tim Myers, president of Alcoa Wheel Transportation Products. “We plan on offering the LvL One as our ‘base family’ of truck wheels.”
The new aluminum wheel is 2 lbs. lighter than Alcoa's previous offering, which translates into a 36-lb. savings for an entire tractor-trailer, Myers pointed out. And he said that advantage grows to 650 lbs. when compared to standard steel wheels. Myers noted that Alcoa field-tested the LvL One wheel with three high-mileage, high-payload fleets.
“Two pounds less per wheel may not seem like much, but [they] can add up to millions for a fleet and translate into more payload, fuel savings, less stress on engines and drivetrains, and lower emissions, too,” Myers said.
While weighing in at 30 lbs. less than a typical steel wheel in the 24.5 × 8.25 in. category, the LvL One wheel boasts a 7,850-lb. rating, which, according to Alcoa, is highest in its class. The wheel is designed for vocational, construction and over-the-road trucks and trailers, and is designated for use with load range H tires.
“In addition to those benefits, the 24.5-in. LvL One wheel looks outstanding,” added Myers. “Our exclusive dual-side, clean-buff finish makes [it] much brighter than any competitive aluminum wheel in its class. It also eliminates single-side, double-wheel ordering, which reduces inventory as it can be mounted on any standard tractor or trailer axle position.”
This summer, Accuride Corp. said it was increasing the availability of its enhanced finish for aluminum wheels. The finishing process, which produces a semi-polished appearance on unpolished wheels, is now available as standard across the company's aluminum wheel product line, excluding small-diameter trailer wheels.
“When customers compare Accuride's standard enhanced finish to the competition's standard machine-finished wheel, we feel they will be amazed at the difference,” stated Rick Schomer, senior vp of marketing & sales. “Our enhanced finish provides the driver with the look of an upgraded aluminum wheel at standard aluminum wheel pricing.”
And certainly reflecting the growing application-specificity of wheels, Accuride announced jointly with Utility Trailer Manufacturing Co. in July that Accuride's powder-coated steel wheels will be standard on all trailers produced by Utility at their five regional plants (located in Clearfield, UT; Paragould, AR; Glade Spring, VA; Adkins, VA; and Enterprise, AL). The new wheel standard was to be effective on all trailers starting the first of this month.
According to Hayes Lemmerz, its wheels “set standards in weight optimization, finish (E-coat or custom color top-coats) and fatigue life. All of our wheels are tested and certified to the most stringent test criteria.”
The company said its hub-piloted tubeless wheels can be used for single- or dual-wheel applications and for steer, drive or trailer axle positions. “The primary advantage of our wheel is that a single, right-hand threaded, cone lock nut is used on each bolt,” said Hayes Lemmerz. “In contrast, traditional stud-piloted systems incorporate spherical countersinks on each stud hole, which require multiple left-hand/right-hand fasteners. Positive hub piloting and cone lock clamping leads to improved wheel life and simplified maintenance.”
Hayes Lemmerz noted its stud-piloted tubeless wheels “incorporate inner and outer cap nuts so that each wheel is tightened and torqued individually.” These wheels are available in standard or heavy-duty stud-piloted mountings based on load capacity.
“Our wide-base steel wheels are ideal for weight sensitive applications,” said Hayes Lemmerz. “For tubeless dual replacement applications, weight savings up to 166 lbs. per axle can be achieved. Our wide-base wheels are less expensive than comparable aluminum wide-base wheels. Wide base wheels also required less hardware for stud-piloted applications, resulting in lower inventory costs.”
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