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How to extend tire tread life

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Madeleine Winer is the managing editor of Fleet Equipment's sister publication Tire Review.

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Maintaining trailer tires is one of the most challenging aspects of commercial fleet maintenance, since tires are frequently rotated or released in a route or during a delivery change. With tires making up one of the largest costs of fleet equipment, we’ve asked industry experts for tips on extending the tread life of trailer tires—recommendations to help your clients get the most out of their investment.

Choose the right tire

Fleets should consider the application and job function when selecting tires for a vehicle, says Robert Palmer, Bridgestone Americas’ director of market sales engineering. Today’s tires are designed to provide maximum performance, but even the best tire in the wrong application will not deliver the intended results.

Palmer recommends confirming tires are of the correct size and load range to meet the gross axle weight rating. Some newer vehicles require 16 ply (load range H) to meet the steer axle ratings, he says. In addition, fleets need to choose a tire with the appropriate speed capability for the service conditions. Palmer also suggests that fleets select the appropriate tire design to ensure they get the most life out of their tires. Typically, most of the major application categories (i.e. long haul service, regional haul service, local pickup and delivery service and on-/off-highway service) have a tire for each wheel position. Providing fleets with the correct options tailored to their needs means asking good questions.

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Implement routine checks

Establishing an effective tire policy is key to maintaining a fleet’s tires. Matthew Hanchana, senior manager of the sales technical department for Giti Tire USA Ltd., suggests that fleets address four key elements that contribute to the extended life of any tire: air pressure, rotation, mechanical maintenance of the vehicle and speed.

Mike Graber, Toyo Tire’s senior manager for product planning and technical services, says implementing daily visual checks is one simple way to extend tire life.

“A pre-trip visual inspection while checking air pressure with a calibrated gauge will ensure tires are properly set for the haul,” Graber says. “Periodic maintenance like alignments and tire rotation will reduce the likelihood of mechanical factors causing premature tire removal.”

While there are lots of different elements to maintenance programs, it all starts with a commitment by the fleet, says Rick Phillips, vice president of sales for Triangle Tire USA.

“The fleet must be committed to a solid maintenance program,” Phillips says.

Recommending a tire policy

You know how the saying goes: time is money and money is time. You’ll save both by recommending an effective tire policy checklist.

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Giti’s Hanchana recommends a few best practices such as establishing a benchmark to determine the percent of tires in your fleet that achieve run out. This can be determined by observing operating conditions of your tires. When doing this, a maintenance checklist can be tailored to meet certain goals. In establishing recommended tire pressure for vehicles, Hanchana recommends utilizing scales axle weights.

Another benchmark he suggests is setting a removal tread depth based on data gained through scrap tire analysis, which can help produce high retreadability for casings.

For example, if every tire in your pile has been run down to the last 2/32nds of tread and had multiple retreads, consider that a win.

“You might be hard pressed to call a pile of scrap tires a hidden treasure, but that is exactly what it is,” Hanchana says. “There is a wealth of knowledge in that pile about equipment maintenance, driver habits and the types and brands of tires you’re running on.”

What about retreading?

Retreading is a common practice since it extends the life of the original truck tire casings and provides operators a low cost-per-mile solution over time, says Robert Palmer, Bridgestone Americas’ director of market sales engineering.

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A premium retread begins with premium casing and consistent tire inflation maintenance, which preserves the casing and helps lead to greater retreadibility, says Evan Perrow, senior product marketing manager at Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.

Another tip to maintain retreadability: Keep valve caps free of debris while on haul to guard against inflation pressure loss. Palmer says a new valve core and cap should be applied each time a new or retreaded tire is installed to prevent leaks or deterioration.

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