Why vehicle alignment is important

Why heavy-duty truck alignment is important

tires-wheels-column

The two primary reasons for keeping your vehicles properly aligned are to ensure that your tires do not develop irregular wear and to keep your drivers happy. If vehicles are doglegging to the left or right, the tires’ tread will scrub off quickly and inner or outside wear will occur. With the average price of a commercial truck tire in the $500 range—depending on make, model and tread depth—it is always important to maximize tire removal miles. Proper alignment will go a long way in keeping tires from developing irregular and uneven wear, which leads to premature tire removals.

A hidden cost of poor alignment is its impact on the driver. If the driver has to fight with the steering to maintain a straight course, he or she will become very unhappy and demand a new vehicle. With the current shortage for qualified drivers, a fleet with a reputation for poorly maintained and/or out of alignment vehicles will not retain drivers.

It costs time and money to align every tractor and trailer, so when should the fleet consider alignment? Some fleets align their vehicles based on mileage or age of the tractor/trailer. Other fleets will only align when the tires show irregular wear, and some fleets refuse to align.

One of the arguments fleet managers express for why they don’t align their tractors is because of trailers. If a perfectly aligned tractor is connected to an out-of-alignment trailer, the trailer will force the tractor out of alignment, which results in tire irregular wear and drivers having a difficult time keeping the steering straight.

A consideration for fleets that do recognize the importance of proper vehicle alignment on both the tractor and trailer is the reproducibility of alignment results. There are several alignment companies that have different procedures for determining alignment angles for thrust, toe, camber and caster. The reproducibility of alignment results within alignment companies may also be based on the skill level of the technician.

The alignment equipment requires calibration on a regular basis to ensure reproducible results. Every fleet needs to do its homework when deciding on an alignment company. Fleets should visit the various alignment shops and ask the following questions:

  • What system does it use?
  • How long has the technician been working at the facility?
  • What is the frequency of equipment calibration?

Asking other fleets about their experiences with the alignment shop may also be helpful.

Looking for more insight on tires and wheels? Click here to read through Al Cohn’s archive of columns.

Common wear conditions

Proper tire toe will play a major role in maximizing tire removal miles. Toe-in and toe-out conditions are easy to identify with your steer tires. Full shoulder wear on steers is a result of side scrubbing and caused by improper toe condition on the steer axle, or the drive/trailer axle being misaligned.

Full shoulder wear on both steer tires is a good example of a situation in which the steer axle can be in perfect alignment but either the drive or trailer axle is misaligned. If the outside shoulders of both steer tires are worn, too much toe-in is the culprit. If the inside shoulders of both steer tires are worn, the steer axle has a toe-out condition.

Another common steer tire wear condition is feather wear, which is indicated by the ribs of the steer tires being worn high to low on each individual rib across the tread. Too much toe on the steer axle and/or drive axle misalignment is usually the cause.

When it comes to drive tires, rapid shoulder wear on only one of two duals can be attributed to negative camber. Uneven inflation pressure between the inside and outside duals will also magnify this rapid shoulder wear.

Rapid shoulder wear on both drive tire shoulders is not an alignment-related condition; it is caused by running light loads where the shoulders are not in full contact with the road surface.

An excellent source of information on the various types of irregular and uneven wear and their root causes can be found in the “Radial Tire Conditions Analysis Guide” published by the TMC of the American Trucking Associations. This manual is highly recommended for all fleet managers.

You May Also Like

Volvo on Demand battery electric truck adoption program launches

Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) launched Volvo on Demand, a Truck-as-a-Service (TaaS) business model focused on battery electric trucks in collaboration with Volvo Financial Services (VFS). Volvo says Volvo on Demand was designed as a solution to simplify the acquisition and reduce the major upfront investment in battery-electric vehicles. Volvo on Demand provides qualified customers

Volvo Trucks North America (VTNA) launched Volvo on Demand, a Truck-as-a-Service (TaaS) business model focused on battery electric trucks in collaboration with Volvo Financial Services (VFS). Volvo says Volvo on Demand was designed as a solution to simplify the acquisition and reduce the major upfront investment in battery-electric vehicles. Volvo on Demand provides qualified customers with flexible term options as short as 12 months and includes Volvo Trucks’ Gold Contract and the option to bundle vehicle insurance for physical damage and collision, route planning and optimization guidance, as well as consultation to find the best charging solution and incentives that might be available.

Hino, Hexagon Purus launch Tern zero-emission truck brand, RC8 Class 8 truck

Hino Trucks and Hexagon Purus announced the launch of Tern, a new zero-emission truck brand along with their inaugural truck model, the RC8, a battery electric Class 8 tractor. Related Articles – Hyundai previews enhanced Xcient fuel cell truck – New Penske Energy initiative to advise, support fleets on electric truck infrastructure – Eaton to

Daimler announces battery repairing, remanufacturing, repurposing and recycling program

DTNA says the circular economy approach strives to extend the usability of rare-earth materials and products.

Daimler-Truck-North-America-Logo-1400
Kenworth T680, T880 trucks with Cummins X15N to begin production

Production of Kenworth T680 and T880 models with the new Cummins X15N natural gas engine will start in Q3 2024.

Kenworth-PACCAR-Cummins-X15N-Class-8-prudction-schedule
ACT Research numbers: Heavy-duty down, medium-duty up

ACT says after a year of unexpected growth, March orders may finally indicate a slowdown in capacity additions.

ACT-class-8-net-march-2024-orders

Other Posts

Daimler Truck reports good start to 2024

Despite lower Group unit sales, Daimler Truck says it continued toward a robust profitability in normalizing markets for Q1 2024.

Daimler-Truck-Q1-2024
Vipar Heavy Duty announces Latin America expansion plans

Plans include focusing on new locations, stockholders, and suppliers to serve the growing market.

VIPAR-Heavy-Duty-Latin-America-Expansion
41 Volvo VNR EV trucks deployed by 4 Gen Logistics

The zero-emissions fleet will help the drayage company haul freight in southern CA, while advancing its commitment to sustainability.

4-Gen-logistics-Volvo-VNR-EV-electric-trucks
Performance Food Group, partners unveil sustainable distribution center

PFG tells us Advanced Energy Machines, FreeWire, GridMarket and Volvo Trucks North America played key roles in facility transformation.

Performance-food-group-PFG-Earth-Day-volvo-vnr-electric-carb-ev