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Tough on tyres in the outback: WA operator’s handy hints

WA operator has some handy hints for keeping the big rubber rolling


When it can reach almost 50 degrees just standing in the shade, imagine how hot both dirt and bitumen roads can get in the Western Australian outback.

Combine that road heat with truck wheels moving at up to 100km/h, and you need pretty tough tyres. Not to mention rocks and mud, and the occasional cyclone.

Todd Lupton is in charge of two Desert Enterprise family company road trains running from a mine nearly 400km inland from Port Hedland in the far northwest of the nation.

The 2000 model Western Star 4900FX and 2013 4900FX big bangers pull two triple side-tipper sets grossing 141 tonnes.

They each do two return trips in 24 hours. That’s 1,500km a day, seven days a week.

Lupton reckons he has hit on a tyres policy which seems to work: “We have a good run on the whole,” he says.

He says one of the keys to success in summer is to inflate tyres to about 20 pounds per square inch (psi) lower than the recommended cold inflation pressure.

Hence he runs steers at 102psi rather than 120, drives at 95psi rather than 110, and trailer tyres at 90 psi rather than 110 cold.

From his experience that allows for the high temperatures he experiences in the west.

“I haven’t had any problems whatsoever doing that,” Lupton says.

When spending most of his time on rough roads he goes as low down as 80psi on both drives and trailers, “for extra cushioning”.

Another essential part of Lupton’s tyres policy is checking inflation pressures with a gauge every week.

He also keeps a close eye on how trailers are tracking and aligns them as soon as a driver spots something amiss.

Lupton makes sure his drivers change wheels out on the road as soon as they spot a flat because of the damage a flat overheated tyre can do to the rest of the truck if it blows.

The spare needs to be of similar tread depth to the tyre on the remaining wheel, whether it’s old or relatively new – otherwise one of them is going to wear “a damn sight quicker” than it should.

Another practice Lupton instils in his drivers is to stop when coming onto bitumen after a stint on dirt, to check the duals for any rocks which might be stuck between them. These rocks rubbing away at higher bitumen speeds could also cause a blowout.

Find out more about tyres and wheels in a special feature in the April issue of ATN. Click here to secure your copy.

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