How tire balance impacts fuel economy

A question of truck tire balance

The issue of tire/wheel assembly balance has been debated for decades. Several significant changes have influenced these discussions, which resulted in changes to maintenance policies and, in some cases, later reversals of these policies.

Historically, the goal has been to use balancing to prevent or solve complaints of truck ride, vibration and even wheel hop. Many bias ply truck tires produced into the mid-1970s came factory-equipped with “balance pads” in an effort to reduce the need for excessive correction when the imbalance of wheels/rims, hubs and brake drums was added to the tire non-uniformities.

The switch to radial tire construction in the early/mid-1970s eliminated much of the bias ply balance issue, although balancing steer tires has remained a common practice. Hubs and brake drums also improved in uniformity and are currently balanced by the manufacturer. Industry developments dictate that there are new and compelling reasons to consider balancing all wheel positions on linehaul equipment.

Most importantly, recent information published by the S.11 Energy Conservation Study Group of the TMC shows that balancing all wheel positions on over-the-road rigs can save up to 2.2% fuel compared to non-balanced assemblies, regardless of truck ride considerations. Recommended Practice (RP) 1111 titled Relationships Between Truck Components and Fuel Economy cites the fuel savings that fleets can reasonably expect from various aero and mechanical components, based on actual user reports and/or TMC-endorsed fuel economy testing procedures.

Tire engineers have long promoted balancing all wheel positions and the S.2 Tire & Wheel Study Group of TMC has continuously endorsed this for optimum tire performance. In technical terms, all rotating assemblies such as crankshafts, turbochargers, flywheels and clutch assemblies have enhanced durability and energy conservation when balanced. Considering only tire/wheel assemblies, proper balance is also documented to resist the development of irregular wear patterns and driver requests for early (pre-mandated) tire pulls. This is noteworthy as it is widely documented that all radial truck tires have reduced rolling resistance as they wear, with new tires being less fuel efficient (up to 6% difference) than their worn counterparts. Therefore, managers who can extend tire take-off mileages also reap a second fuel economy gain beyond that due to the balancing noted above.

Fuel savings of this magnitude rival advantages claimed for trailer side skirts, flow through mud flaps, streamlined mirrors and other such improvements. One related issue to consider is that maintaining balance is important throughout the tread life of the tires. A typical linehaul 295/75R22.5 drive tire loses approximately 30 lbs. of tread rubber from new to a popular pull point of 6.5/32 depth remaining. Practically, this mass change means that periodic re-balancing may be required to maintain optimum balance and performance as the tires wear.

In the past, this meant bringing the truck/trailer in at least once or more during tire tread life to check/revise balance—a costly and labor intense process at best. Recently available products designed for use inside the tire/wheel cavity solve this issue by continuously auto-balancing, adapting the weight distribution inside the tire to compensate for the constantly reducing tread mass. Most of these materials work as claimed, but savvy managers should consult RP 246 titled Considerations For Products Intended For Use Inside Tires. This RP includes guidelines for use, as well as questions potential fleet users should discuss with their suppliers if they are not experienced with using these new generation products. The availability of new information and technology should be evaluated and new or revised spec’ing and maintenance policies studied. Industry field engineers and other quality assistance can help if you simply ask.

You May Also Like

Daimler begins leasing in Romania

The partnership with Raiffeisen Leasing now expands Daimler’s leasing program to 17 global markets.

Daimler -Truck-rental-Brazil

Daimler Truck Financial Services launched a partnership with Raiffeisen Leasing to offer financing and leasing to truck and bus customers in Romania. The first available product is a four-year full-service financing offer for the Mercedes-Benz Actros L, which includes maintenance and wear coverage.

According to Daimler, Romania is the fastest growing and sixth biggest heavy truck market in Europe, with demand increasing 4.1% year-over-year since 1994. "With Romania, we are now active in nine major European countries offering our truck and bus customers integrated financial services," said Bernd Barth, head of Daimler Truck Financial Services Europe and South America.

Beyond standard TPMS: The crucial role of customizable tire health alerts

Delving into the shortcomings of standard TPMS and why customizable tire health alerts are crucial for commercial vehicle fleets.

Driving for Alabama: A family affair

The stories of two truck drivers for ’80s country hitmakers Alabama.

Photos by Amazing Grace Photography
So you want to write for Fleet Equipment?

Of course you do. As the premiere online publication for the heavy-duty truck market, charting the latest in trucking equipment, technology, and service trends, Fleet Equipment has a knack for digging up the stories behind the stories (while having a lot of fun along the way). Now you can be a part of it! But

Write for Fleet Equipment
Babcox Media mourns the passing of Tim Fritz, longtime editor and friend

Babcox Media Editor Tim Fritz passed away on Feb. 23 from a heart attack. He was 53 years old. Related Articles – Debating the merits of ethanol – Why isn’t a truck’s appearance part of the PM process? – Change is coming to U.S. energy policies Tim joined Babcox Media in 1990 and spent 31

Tim-Fritz-1400x700

Other Posts

U.S. Bank Index sees largest-ever freight shipment volume drop

Year-over-year data shows Q4 2023 shipments were down 15.7%, while spending by shippers dropped 13.5%.

US-Bank-Truck-Freight-shipment-volume-historic-drop
ACT Research: Used Class 8 value hits low last seen in 2021

Despite the drop in price, ACT Research vice president Steve Tam says 2023 sales volume increased considerably.

ACT-research-used-class-8-Retail-Summary-December
Volvo honors captains of 2024-2025 America’s Road Team

The 24 captains will be among the first to drive the new VNL truck.

Volvo-2024-2025-americas-road-team-captains-honored-vnl
CarriersEdge releases 2024 Best Fleets list

The Best Fleets program aims to recognize companies providing drivers with exceptional workplace experiences.

2024-best-fleets-to-drive-for