Fleet managers are under increased equipment performance pressure, not the least of which comes from ensuring that their trucks on the road meet all CSA standards. Violations can quickly add up, and improperly inflated tires—especially flat and blown tires—can be a red flag for enforcement officers. That’s where tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS), as well as automatic tire inflation systems (ATIS), come into play.
“Use of ATIS and/or TPMS in proactive tire pressure maintenance programs help carriers avoid a number of vehicle maintenance related CSA violations,” said Josh Carter, chief executive officer of Aperia, maker of Halo Tire Inflator, a bolt-on device that uses a wheel’s rotation to inflate and automatically maintain optimal tire pressure. “There are the direct tire pressure related violations like the eight-point flat tire violation, as well as numerous other tire related violations that are impacted by the excessive tire heating and flexing caused by underinflation.”
TPMS systems can advise the driver and/or fleet of a problem before the vehicle leaves the yard or gets on the road so that the tire issue can be corrected before the vehicle reaches an inspection station; thereby eliminating a citation opportunity.
“Even the most conscientious driver can end up with a citation if he doesn’t know what’s happening outside his cab,” said Bob Montgomery, vice president of Innovative Tire & Mileage Solutions for Stemco, which offers a TPMS solution, called BatRF, and an ATIS, called Aeris. “Both BatRF TPMS and Aeris automatic tire inflation help drivers prevent flats and blown tires by warning immediately about tire issues [BatRF and Aeris] and maintaining appropriate pressure when tires are leaking [Aeris],” he said.
The true value of TPMS and ATIS is the ability of the fleet to reduce tire and fuel expenses, as well as improving maintenance practices that help to ensure a flat or blown tire is prevented before it happens.
“Wabco’s Integrated Vehicle Tire Monitoring System [IVTM] can warn the driver through visual or other signals to keep the vehicle’s tire pressures in safe driving condition,” said Brent Fitch, Wabco’s director of fleet sales. “The most obvious system warning is triggered by significant loss of tire pressure. IVTM will also warn the driver as a result of a slow pressure leak. A live feed of tire data allows the driver to constantly maintain optimum tire pressure. There are a number of CSA violations that pertain to tire pressure. With IVTM, the majority of tire pressure related CSA violations could be avoided.”
Walk-around inspections are far from fool proof when it comes to proper tire pressure. Many times a tire may seem to be at the correct PSI, but is not even close. The driver is technically responsible for any tire-related issue, but all BASIC violations count against the carrier.
“Under-inflated tires may seem like a minor infraction, but that can also lead to flat tires very quickly, which are a heavier violation. The real problem is when a tire fails—this puts the driver at risk, along with anybody in his or her path,” said Zach Rothstein, marketing manager for Mobile Awareness, which offers MobileTRAQ TPMS, a commercial vehicle smart device that is able to collect, store and transmit tire data. The MobileTRAQ Vue is a customizable in-cab monitoring device, while MobileTRAQ Que is a non-display device that allows for remote truck or trailer monitoring.
Whether it’s helping to improve maintenance practices or avoiding CSA violations by catching any potential tire issues before the tractor and trailer hit the road, the savings can be substantial. “One fleet with a severe service operation hauling scrap metal was experiencing many tire problems. It reduced its four-times a week service calls by its tire dealer to once a week by installing TireVigil TPMS, which saved it approximately $6,000 a month,” reported Peggy Fisher, president of TireStamp Inc. TireVigil TPMS and TireVigil TPMS Trailer monitors tire pressure and temperature, in addition to vehicle location and mileage. Its own telematics capability sends all tire vehicle data off the vehicle to TireStamp where the data is analyzed, hot inflation pressure is converted to cold pressure, and the data is stored in a database. This gives the fleet visibility of all of its tires not just the tires on one vehicle at a time and forms the foundation of a total tire maintenance program.
According to TPMS and ATIS manufacturers, TPMS and ATIS systems are far more common on trailers than on tractors. Across the industry, a low percentage of tractors are utilizing TPMS today, whereas roughly one in three new trailers are spec’d with TPMS or inflation systems, according to Aperia’s Carter. Penetration within the tractor market is increasing, yet currently, Continental reported that around 9% of truck orders include a TPMS system and approximately 16% of trucks on the road today are equipped with TPMS.
Though all TPMS systems are different, many systems pair tractor and trailer application. Continental’s ContiPressureCheck TPMS solution, for example, most commonly operates as a tractor and trailer combination, but it has the ability to run independently on just the truck or just the trailer. Regardless of the how it is applied, the results are exactly the same, explained Terry Smouter, Continental business development manage, “Fleet managers should be aware of the different TPMS system capabilities and how those systems align with their fleet’s application,” Smouter explained. “CSA violations are very important to avoid, but the major benefit of any TPMS system is the cost savings you can realize if it is used properly. A fleet can avoid unnecessary tire-related roadside service calls. Our system more than pays for itself by preventing just one tire-related road side service call and that doesn’t even include late delivery fees or possible lost business. Additionally, fleets can expect extended mileage and additional life cycles out of their casings by just maintaining proper inflation levels.”
When considering a TPMS or ATIS solution, it’s important to be aware that you have choices. “Systems that have been on the market for years are easy to find and are typically the least expensive in terms of acquisition cost,” Stemco’s Montgomery explained. However, systems like Aeris, though they carry a small premium at acquisition, can significantly reduce the total cost of ownership by including time and money-saving features and requiring less maintenance.”
Additionally, Wabco’s Fitch recommends that fleet managers make sure the robustness of the TPMS matches the fleet’s application, “Some TPMS systems have been adapted from passenger car systems that don’t match the rigorous environmental conditions of the average commercial fleet.”
Savings beyond CSA
With tires being one of the top costs for fleets, it’s clear that any system that helps to maintain them will generate significant savings. Running tires at optimal pressure levels will reduce rolling resistance, which ultimately improves fuel consumption.
“[TPMS and ATIS] increases tire life, as driving on underinflated tires damages the tire casing, preventing the tires from being retreaded or regrooved,” stated Tom Bosler, director, global product planning for Dana Commercial Vehicle Driveline Technologies. Dana is currently field-testing the Spicer-optimized tire pressure system for commercial vehicles—an internal axle system for powered commercial vehicles. Additionally, the Spicer optimized tire pressure system has been engineered to automatically maintain proper inflation for drive and steer axles. “Underinflated tires are also more likely to fail from excessive heat that is caused by operating at low pressure, resulting in costly repairs and lost time on the road.”
There are other numerous advantages to keeping a close eye on tire pressure: From inflation systems improving traction and handling to ensuring proper tire tread wear, helping to preserve the tire casing for retread and lowering the tire’s cost per mile. It comes down to ensuring that your tires are operating effectively and efficiency on the road, while mitigating the risk of any costly tire failure consequences.