In a properly inflated tire, most of a car’s weight is spread out evenly across the tire’s full width. When a tire is underinflated, the weight is concentrated on the tread, just under the sidewalls, which means the sidewall is running flexed and generating excess heat. Running like this reduces the vehicle’s handling and builds up significant heat caused by the excessive flexing, which results in premature tire wear and failure. Properly inflated tires can extend the life of tire treads by as much as 35 percent.
Kevin Krause, president of Ventech in the United States, shares some statistics from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. Tire-related costs are the single largest maintenance cost for a fleet, saying it costs about two cents per mile. For the average fleet in the United States, improper tire inflation increases the annual procurement costs for both new and retreaded tires by 10 to 13 percent. Also, improper tire inflation increases total tire-related costs by approximately $600 to $800 annually per vehicle.
Benefits of Proper Inflation
“If you see the tire debris on the side of the road, you see how people care about tires,” says Ulrich Pingel, owner and president of Ventech. He stresses, “It is important to see that every bit of debris is money and that it could be an accident.”
NitroFil owner Jay Lighter provides information regarding the safety concerns regarding properly inflated tires. Underinflated tires lead to tread separation and tire failure resulting in 40,000 accidents. Low tire pressure affects handling, stability and braking effectiveness.
Krause adds, “Your transit companies are on the cutting edge of safety and maintenance on their vehicles. The problem, however, is that up to this point, most people really haven’t looked at the tire issue, although it’s one of the largest costs for a fleet.” He adds, “A transit authority can not realize the benefit of having your tires
inflated properly — the emissions, the fuel, the safety — unless it’s checked every day. It’s a daily thing.”
For every 10 psi a tire is underinflated, the fuel consumption of the vehicle is increased by .5 percent. Vanessa Zaroor, director of marketing for Advantage PressurePro, explains, “You are having to use more fuel to overcome the added rolling resistance of the low tires. More than 2 billion gallons of fuel each year in the United States alone is wasted just because of low pressure.”
Pingel points out, “How they care about tire and tire pressure is changing because of the economic crisis, the fuel costs.” Being able to save 2 or 3 percent of fuel costs adds up over a year, and it has people listening.
Proper tire inflation also translates into cleaner air, Zaroor explains. Tires low on pressure release particles in the air from the tires breaking and the roadside debris. And, while properly inflated tires improve fuel efficiency, it also decreases carbon emissions.
Tire pressure monitoring systems
Detecting a potential situation before a vehicle is out on the road improves the safe operation of the vehicle and reduces operational costs. Despite this, tire maintenance procedures are often cut short and, in some cases, skipped.
Automatic systems make tire monitoring quicker and easier for agencies. Systems vary on how the information is captured and what is done with that information. There are several options available, including internal sensors in the tires, external sensors on the tire and external sensor plates, and with RFID technology pressure readings can be sent in various ways. One way to capture tire pressure readings is by an electronic sensor in the valve cap.
Zaroor explains how Advantage PressurePro’s monitoring system works. The sensor replaces the cap on your valve stem, an advantage being that there’s no professional installation required. The sensors send readings of the tire pressures and of the temperature codes to a monitor that sits in the operator’s cab and that information can be automatically sent to the maintenance office.