Protecting and Maintaining Tire Technology
Understanding and choosing tires with outstanding technology and fitting them to the fleet’s buses won’t amount to much if the tires aren’t also properly maintained. Every fleet should have a formal tire maintenance program and policy. An effective tire maintenance policy should stipulate and record several measurements:
- Established air pressure data
- Loads carried by vehicles
- Frequency of tire inspections
- Removal timelines for retreads, as well as the number of retreads expected
- Expected life of the tire casing within the fleet
- Inspection of failed or end-of-life tires
In order to establish a baseline, fleet managers should begin collecting tire data over a year. Then fleets may find that there are certain changes that can be made for greater efficiency or better cost savings. This will be the first step toward a written policy related to their tire business and retreading.
Training for those who handle tires is crucial. An untrained person can destroy good equipment without the proper training. In fact, OSHA supports this view by requiring anyone that touches a tire to have basic training. Several sources offer formal tire handling training, including tire manufacturers and the Tire Industry Association (TIA).
Training should also be provided to drivers. Drivers should check air pressure and the condition of the tires in all positions during the pre- and post-trip inspections. If repairs are needed, they should be handled immediately to avoid problems. If the tread has reached the specified retread pull point or DOT minimum tread depth, the tire should be pulled.
There are two approaches to establishing a tire maintenance program. Some fleets prefer to do it all in house, while other fleets choose to outsource all or part of the program. Regardless of the option chosen by the fleet, it is a good idea to work with a dealer that is close to assist the fleet in emergency situations and is willing to work with the fleet in reducing overall tire costs.
At the most basic level, Michelin recommends a “Top 10” list of tire maintenance practices:
- Check tires for correct air pressures. Every shop should have a master air gauge and every driver should have an accurate pressure gauge and be instructed to check tires on their vehicle every day.
- Drivers should conduct a visual inspection of their vehicle’s tires prior to operation. They should look for signs of irregular wear in the tread or shoulder areas of their tires and examine the tires for bubbles or bumps.
- Check the vehicle’s owner’s manual or the vehicle load and tire information placard to determine precise air pressures for the loads that the vehicle is designed to carry.
- Check tires for correct air pressures. A tire that is 20 percent below the optimal air pressure is considered a flat tire. Run under these conditions, it will experience casing fatigue which could lead to a catastrophic failure or a zipper rupture. If a tire has been run 20 percent underinflated, it should be removed from the vehicle and scrapped.
- Never weld or apply heat to the wheel when the tire is mounted on it. This can cause serious damage to the tire and can cause the tire to explode.
- Store tires properly when they are not in use. Place them in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight to avoid premature aging. Tires should be stored standing up on their tread, not stacked in a pile on their sidewalls.
- Check tires for correct air pressures. A tire that is run 10 percent underinflated will lose 10 percent in tread wear and will come out of service quicker.
- Beware mixing tires on your vehicle, especially across an axle. Try to match tires with the same tread depths, same tread patterns and same height.
- Keep your tires clean! Wash them with warm soap and water. This will help prevent premature aging and deterioration of the rubber.
- Check tires for correct air pressures. Depending on how much your tires cost, you may be losing between $15 and $30 a tire due to underinflation.