Tyres and wheels: words from the wise

By: Jonathan Stewart

Those intimately involved in tyres and wheels share their wisdom on crucial issues

Tyres and wheels: words from the wise
Regular tyre and wheel maintenance can result in fuel savings and reduced wear.


Ahead of their sessions at the Technical and Maintenance Conference (TMC) 2017, the industry’s biggest event for heavy vehicle maintenance and technical issues run jointly by the Australian Trucking Association (ATA) and the Australian Road Transport Suppliers Association (ARTSA), three industry leaders spoke to ATN to give an insight into the practical advice on offer.

Chet Cline

Holding two sessions at the event is AIR CTI founder Chet Cline, who started 20 years ago to develop his company’s central tyre inflation system to allow drivers to tailor their load for the conditions.

Promising to offer better traction, better tyre wear and a better ride, the Australian owned and operated company says it all adds up to improved safety, fuel economy and job scheduling.

"Ultimately, I believe I am developing a business that will lower truck operation costs in numerous areas," Cline says.

"For instance, running the optimal tyre pressure increases tyre life by at least 30 per cent, while reducing maintenance through reduced wear and tear on the truck and trailer via excessive vibration from optimising tyre pressures, therefore reducing down time, which most operators don't understand the real costs," he says,

Also read: HVIA experts discuss COR and tyre maintenance

This reduction has strong causation effects, according to Cline, benefiting both the vehicle’s longevity and the environment but also the health of the industry’s drivers.

"Reducing vibration levels and improving truck control reduces driver stress and strain," he says, "which reduces fatigue, and, when the tyre pressure is matched to the weight carried by the tyre, as per optimisation, as recommended by all responsible tyre manufacturers, the truck stops shorter, handles better and is safer.

"Whole Body Vibration (WBV) is now a recognised health hazard, and our rough roads are killing our drivers through WBV."

"Road damage, ie infrastructure damage is directly related to tyre pressure. The higher the tyre pressure, the more damage.  

"And throwing away one third of all truck tyres, and needlessly damaging our trucks and infrastructure means we're damaging our environment needlessly."

In terms of practical numbers, the AIR CTI founder believes "almost every heavy truck steer tyre is slightly under inflated" and the rest "are at least 25 per cent over inflated, even when fully legally loaded."

Running empty? Well, Cline says "most empty trucks and trailer tyres are 300 per cent to 400 per cent over inflated."

"The tyre manufacturers have given up… the government regulators simply don't know any better and industry does what it always does."

"My father ran 100 psi, as did my grandfather… But, they didn't run radial tyres."

The financial impact "depends upon mileage, what they cart, what roads they cart on and the load to unloaded driving percentages," he says, but heavy vehicles working on rough roads with the CTI system only on the drive tyres can "save between $5,000 and $10,000 per year."

"One customer with a tip truck went from 27,000km tyre life to over 45,000. Another went from 90k to over 135k. These are normal improvements. 

"The worse the tyre wear, the more we benefit.  Another out back operator was replacing his lead refrigerated trailer every year, it was shaking apart. He just bought a new truck, fitted AIR CTI of course, after 7 years.... and is still using the same frig trailer!"

"Everyone tells me that transport is highly competitive, so why do they throw away one tyre out of three?  Who does it impact?  Everyone.  We all pay for roads, we all pay for accidents and death." 

For truck operators, Cline’s advice to slash the cost of operating a single truck to a heavy vehicle fleet extends to aero, engine cooling and to fuel itself.

When it comes to stream lining heavy vehicles, he says only 43 per cent of semi-trailer trucks in the US take advantage of any aero modifications.

"Why do they like giving so much money to fuel companies?," he says.

"Aero is simple, but, let’s not spend a load of money fitting stuff to a truck to make it look good, when it costs them $30,000 or so over the life of the truck.

"The difference in fuel economy at 90km/h comparing an aero mirror with the classic west coaster mirror is a loss of 1 per cent.

"So, these guys request big square trucks, instead of droop nose trucks, then pay extra for external air cleaners, on both sides, plus extend the air intakes up high, and install special air scoops that cost up to $700 each. 

"Then they install big bull bars, hood deflectors, etc. All of that costs them money."

When it comes to engine cooling, he says he has a simple trick to keep the heat down and the fan off.

"I drive many trucks from Melbourne to Moe," Cline says. "In most cases, the fan comes on, even in our winter, coming up slight hills."

"The engine water thermostat is too close to the fan thermostat. The radiator, especially on cab overs, does not have any guide panels to make the ram air go through the radiator, and no one worries about getting the air out of the engine area. 

"A simple flap below the radiator helps to create a low pressure area, sucking more air through the radiator.

"I can't remember the last time my truck fan operated.  And at up to 75 horsepower that a fan sucks, this is free fuel saving."

Cline’s final piece of advice comes on the back of nearly 10 years of research and concerns fuel, particularly for the log truck and other off-road operators.

"Diesel, when shaken, froths up, it absorbs air," Cline says. "So our standard trucks operating on rough roads with tanks without baffles, are shaking and making a fuel with lots of air in it."

"Both Caterpillar and Cummins say that most fuel delivered to the engine has around 10 per cent air in it."

The solution will be arriving soon as an ‘airXcluder’, which he says shows "between four and eight per cent savings."

Michael Nichols

Victoria and Tasmania State Manager at Alcoa Wheel Products Michael Nichols is keen to press the right-choices message to all levels of the industry.

"We will be concentrating on different wheels on different trucks," Nichols says of his TMC approach.

"We’re helping our customers understand and identify the differences between the different type of wheels, for example an American 10-285 wheel to a European 10-335 wheel and the different wheel nuts used in the fitment of these wheels."

He sees the biggest issue to be raised as how critical it is to identify the correct wheel for fitting to the truck and which nuts to use as it impacts the safety of the vehicle.

"I will be explaining and demonstrating to customers how important the roll stamping on the wheel is at identifying a wheel and what the roll stamp markings actually mean.  Customers need to be vigilant on the usage of correct wheels," Nichols says.

Meanwhile, he is keen to extol the virtues of a metal close to his company’s heart.

"The number one trend is penetration of aluminium wheels into the trailer market due to their lightweight properties over steel wheels," he notes.

"Steel wheels are heavy and can weigh up to 40kg each, fitting aluminium wheels such as Alcoa’s Ultra ONE wheel can save over half that weight. 

"Across a truck and trailer –22 wheels – that’s over 450kg.

"That provides extra payload and fuel savings."

Bob Woodward

Engineer Bob Woodward won the TMC Industry Achievement Award in 2014 and chaired this year’s Tyres & Wheel Maintenance session.

Woodward believes that though they are a major cost, they often don’t reach their full lifespan because of poor maintenance.

His key conference objectives are about tyre selection appropriate to the operating environment; tyre pressure maintenance; and identifying the correct tyre pressure for the application.

Knowing the true costs; benefits of re-treading (but must have a premium case for re-treading); considerations of section profile.

"There is no such thing a single tyre pressure," Woodward underlines.

"Each tyre has an optimum tyre pressure for each load condition – most tyres are over inflated

"Who does it impact?

"Tyre pressure maintenance impacts on every operator and the technical information provides the basis for calculated operating maintenance."

But that’s not all.

"There are always other factors that impact on tyre life!" he insists.

"And what are they?  Nitrogen inflation; Wheel bearing maintenance; wheel (rim) run-out; wheel balancing; steel versus alloy; and, shock absorbers, especially on air suspensions."

Asked about the best ways of tackling issues, he nominates on-board tyre pressure maintenance systems and regular inspections.

"What will need to be done to achieve them? Explore options, then commit to capital investment. 

"What or who needs to change? Don’t continue to do the same thing and expect to get a different result.

"Making change requires commitment."

This article first appeared in the November edition of ATN. Subscribe to the magazine here.


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