You’d think after the litany of tire inflation stories that Fleet Equipment has churned out over the decades, there would be nothing left to say about it. Yet, inflation-related issues continue to plague fleet maintenance budgets, be it through lost efficiency due to under- or over-inflation or in tire failures or early tire pulls, prematurely ending a tire’s lifecycle. It happens. A lot.
“Even though we try to drive the importance of proper tire inflation home in every training session that we do with fleets, inevitably when our field engineers or our sales teammates are in the field checking those air pressures, they’re under-inflated a large majority of the time,” confirmed Greg Kidd, application engineer for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “No matter how hard you drive that home, what happens in the field is still what happens in the field, and that’s typically under-inflated tires.”
So what’s the solution?
While there are plenty of tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) and automatic tire inflation systems (ATIS, more ubiquitous on trailer tires than tractor tires), the fact of the matter is that tire inflation is best maintained by going back to basics.
“Recommended practices are out there for pre- and post-trip checks from the driver, and if that was happening on a regular basis, then a lot of the low pressure that you see out in the field would be caught,” Kidd said. “I can’t speak for what’s going on at these fleets, but it feels like part of the disconnect is the pre- and post-trip. Specifically the pre-trip because that would be when the tires would be cold and when we would be wanting the pressure checks to be conducted.”
Taking the time to make sure the basic recommended practices are followed is often the most difficult part in our on-demand, need-it-right-now world where freight and delivery demand is skyrocketing. Yet, safety and efficiency are pillars of most fleet operations. Ensuring that your drivers do their pre- and post-trip inspection due diligence starts with you, the fleet manager, setting the tone and making sure that they know it’s okay to take the time to do a proper inspection.
“As long as the trucks are moving, they’re making money; so we understand that it does take time to do that pre-trip inspection. I think from a fleet’s standpoint, they have to decide: Do you really want to take 20 minutes away from the driver’s drive time to do the pre-trip inspection?” Kidd said. “It’s not only tire inflation pressure. There are other checks as well. I think the time crunch comes down to why some of it may be being overlooked.”
For fleet managers who take a holistic view of tire management, Kidd provided several top-level bullet points for fleets to focus on to keep their truck tires rolling productively:
- Do not exceed your tire’s maximum recommended speed, which might be lower than posted speed limits.
- Select the right tire for the job, considering the proper tire size, load carrying capacity, speed capabilities and service type.
- Set and maintain proper cold inflation pressures.
- Inspect your tires frequently for damage such as cuts, cracks, bulges and penetrations.
- Monitor tire pressures and temperatures using TPMS systems if equipped.
If you’re looking for even more tire pressure resources, we have you covered. Here are just a few samplings from the aforementioned decades of tire inflation stories.