Kevin Rohlwing
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Tire monitoring benefits fleets

May 24, 2024
Long overdue, economics drive TPMS adoption in trucking.

Since 2008, new U.S. vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 lb. or less have been required by law to include tire pressure monitoring systems that warn drivers when one or more tires are underinflated by 25% of the vehicle placard inflation pressure. The Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standard does not cover vehicles more than 10,000 lb., so this does not apply to commercial motor vehicles.

TPMS is mandatory on passenger vehicles because the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration determined that thousands of lives would be saved if drivers were warned when tires are dangerously underinflated. As far as I know, NHTSA has no data that indicates similar safety benefits would be realized if the TPMS mandate was expanded to cover CMVs, so it remains voluntary. 

Without any regulations pushing it, the trucking industry had little to no interest in TPMS technology back then. While automatic tire inflation systems on trailers were gaining traction in 2008, most did not consider them to be tire pressure monitoring systems because they did not operate like a TPMS on a passenger vehicle or light truck.

I’ve been a proponent of TPMS on CMVs for years because the importance of proper tire inflation can never be overstated. Unlike passenger vehicles, where the safety benefits were the primary focus behind the legislation, monitoring tire pressure on commercial trucks is more about improving tire performance and reducing costs. A federal mandate continues to be unlikely in the truck tire space, so economics must be the driving force behind fleets spending additional money on TPMS.

Based on the exhibitors at March’s Technology & Maintenance Council conference, TPMS on commercial trucks has finally arrived. Here’s what I saw in the TMC exhibition hall: More automatic inflation systems for trailers—and there was even a central tire inflation system that could adjust the inflation pressure in tires based on the load. TPMS is now readily available on original equipment tractors and can be connected to maintenance departments via telematics. Aftermarket TPMS sensor manufacturers were out in force with valve stem and band-mounted options, while vendors of electronic scan tools to diagnose and re-establish the connection between sensors and the vehicle were also on display.

See also: Department of Commerce imposes 2.35% tariff on Thai truck tires

Outside the exhibit hall, TMC initiated a new task force to help fleets understand the service procedures for demounting and mounting tires with TPMS sensors. The task force will also address the installation procedures for valve stem and band-mounted sensors so that the process of standardizing TPMS service on commercial trucks can officially begin. Unlike the battery-electric vehicle “revolution,” where the questions grossly outnumber the answers, TPMS solves the problem of underinflated truck tires, and more fleets are jumping in with both feet.

What has changed? Tire prices have definitely played a role. Proper inflation pressure ensures the tire can carry the load with a footprint that maximizes mileage and minimizes irregular treadwear. Premature removal and replacement increase costs, and with tire prices at an all-time high, fleets are more motivated to get every mile they can out of a new tire or retread. TPMS should reduce the number of tire purchases because drivers can be notified when the inflation pressure is below a level that results in failure or removal before full mileage is attained.

Retreading has also experienced a resurgence to some degree, and TPMS improves the life and quality of casings. Most fleets utilize retreads to lower costs without compromising performance or safety when they are properly inflated. ATIS has done an amazing job preserving trailer casings, and TPMS will have the same effect on steer and drive positions. The number of retread failures is less than 1% because most in-service separations and run-flats are caused by underinflation, overloading, or an impact. Again, providing the driver with a warning before the failure occurs will reduce the number of casings that are not good candidates for retreading.

The time for mass acceptance of TPMS in commercial vehicles is long overdue. Technology for monitoring inflation pressure has existed for years, but the trucking industry has always resisted change. Without government mandates, economic advantages had to be the determining factor for fleets to accept the additional costs. Now is the time for the trucking industry to finally embrace the benefits of TPMS.

About the Author

Kevin Rohlwing

Kevin Rohlwing is the SVP of training for the Tire Industry Association. He has more than 40 years of experience in the tire industry and has created programs to help train more than 180,000 technicians.

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