For years, fleet managers paid very little attention to wheels. As long as their vehicles kept rolling down the road, that was all they cared about. But that was then, and in today's trucking, there are other considerations that make choosing the proper wheel a critical decision.
The wrong wheel can add unnecessary weight to the entire rig, weight that can cost you in both fuel and lost revenue. Aesthetics is another area of concern: How easy is it to keep a wheel clean and polished? This can add or subtract from the image a carrier displays to its customers. Every manager wants a profitable, low-maintenance, great-looking fleet, but choosing from a myriad of components to put that fleet together can get tricky.
“Fleets are all looking to lower the lifetime operating costs of their vehicles,” says Brian Thomas, marketing communications specialist for Alcoa Wheel Products. “Lightweight aluminum wheels from Alcoa improve productivity and lower lifetime operating costs. The lighter the truck and trailer, the more cargo it can carry.”
Alcoa offers Dura-Bright wheels, which include a no-polish, easy-maintenance surface, the company says.
“Labor savings coupled with reduced need for cleaning supplies really add up,” Thomas says. “Dura-Bright wheels enhance the appearance of the fleet and equipment, further improving driver satisfaction and retention.”
Bob Flynn, director of product management for Accuride Corp., says customers are “… looking for ways to improve their bottom line through reduced weight, reduced complexity, and/or reduced maintenance costs.”
“At Accuride, we are continually looking at ways to drive any unnecessary weight out of our products without compromising the overall product integrity,” Flynn adds. “In many cases, our new lightweight wheels have tested out even better than the heavier products they replace.”
Accuride's Accu-Lite wheels are the lightest commercial aluminum wheels available, Flynn points out, adding that the company tests its wheels to standards many times the SAE minimum requirement, depending on application.
The company's Duplex wide-base 22.5 × 14 in. aluminum wheels weigh only 59 lbs., Flynn says. They have been modified to allow mounting from either side on the 2-in. outset version. The 0-in. outset wheel model is designed for compatibility with the next X14 tandem drive axle from Meritor, he adds.
To help reduce maintenance cost, Accuride is offering Accu-Armor aluminum wheel treatment. First previewed at the 2011 Mid-America Trucking Show, Accu-Armor offers soap and water cleanup, scratch and chemical resistance, and protection from filiform corrosion.
“The new Accu-Armor is designed to be a complimentary product to our current Accu-Shield aluminum wheel coating, which is designed to protect the finish of [typically] polished aluminum wheels. This eliminates the need for frequent wheel repolishing and offers easy cleanup with just soap and water,” says Flynn.
Hayes-Lemmerz International is zeroing in on customer demands for more durability and value in its wheel offerings. “We have made our CentruCoat finish standard on our wheels, giving our customers the most durable, corrosion-resistant finish on steel wheels in the industry at no extra cost,” says Thomas Heck, director of engineering-Americas. “This finish is a triple layer of protection with a pretreat layer followed by an epoxy electrocoat primer and topped by a very durable acrylic powder coat.”
Fleet managers need to squeeze every bit of mileage out of every drop of diesel. “To assist in improving fuel economy, we have increased the use of high-strength steels in our wheels and have implemented several design changes to reduce wheel weight and, as a result, reduce the unsprung wheel end weight,” says Heck. “We offer the lightest steel wheel product line in the industry. These changes have been applied to our standard wheels with no cost impact to our customer.”
At Webb Wheel Products, customer service remains a top priority, according to Marshall Boheler, vice president of sales and marketing. Customer concerns include on-time delivery, a two-week or less lead time on products, and consistent and competitive pricing. To help with these concerns, the company has created dedicated plans for aftermarket customers and continues to research ways to make its products and procedures more cost-efficient, says Boheler.
FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEBSITES:
Alcoa Wheel Products
Webb Wheel Products