Creating and maintaining a long-term, cost-effective tire management plan
Regular tire and wheel maintenance can help enhance machine uptime and safety, saving you time and money. Image: Titan International
Establishing a strategic tire management plan is crucial for companies with large fleets of equipment. Throughout the life span of a piece of equipment, tires need to be replaced more frequently than any other component, and as such, their efficient life-cycle management offers arguably the greatest opportunity to control costs.
With a well-informed and well-defined tire maintenance and replacement strategy in place, a fleet manager can proactively manage these valuable equipment assets, while reducing the hassle and stress associated with unplanned downtime.
Develop a tire performance record
Fleet managers should engage their local tire dealer to begin identifying current and past trends in tire wear. This will help detect problems and their potential causes. Common problems include uneven wear, damage to sidewalls and tread face, separations in the tire, and damage to the beads or lining — each of which is a telltale sign that the tire maintenance regimen could be better managed.
Incorrect inflation pressure is often the culprit behind these problems. Separations in the tire are generally a sign that it has been overloaded and/or underinflated. Impact damage and uneven wear toward the centre of the tire is typically caused from overinflation. Frequent tearing or chipping of the treads may indicate the need for a different tread compound.
Establishing this baseline of performance will help the tire professional make better-informed recommendations on maintenance, operations practices, and tire selection moving forward.
Assess operational behaviours
A number of operator tendencies can negatively affect tire longevity, which is why a fleet manager can partner with a tire dealer to provide or gather data, such as average haul distances, peak speeds and cycle times, number of shifts, days worked, cycles completed and type of materials being moved. Doing so helps to forecast expected life span under ideal conditions, and thus, identify problems.
Rapid stops and starts and sharp turns can put unnecessary stress on the casing, leading to premature wear. Excessive speed generates heat, which can degrade the tire. The heavier the load, the more drastic the impact to the tires will be with these operator tendencies.
For fleets including larger equipment, such as haul trucks, it is important to calculate the operators’ ton-mile-per-hour (TMPH) ratings, which utilizes a formula to calculate the heat a tire will generate based on the way it is being operated. TMPH is calculated as the average weight of the vehicle multiplied by the average speed of the vehicle. An operational assessment can determine if the fleet’s tires have a sufficient TMPH rating or if the operators are putting those tires through too much abuse.
Problems with operator abuse can be diminished with the installation of pressure sensors. With today’s in-cab monitors, it’s easier for operators to spot problems before they escalate. If an operator realizes that a tire is even just 10 PSI below where it should be, that should be cause for concern. Catching a problem early on could mean the difference between replacing a $40 valve and replacing the whole tire.
Evaluate job site conditions
The condition of the job site will not only help the dealer recommend the appropriate tire for the application, but also help identify any obstacles that are causing tire damage.
Sharp curves and steep grades can affect load capacity. When an operator takes a sharp right turn, additional weight shifts to the driver-side tires. Similarly, going down a steep slope shifts the weight to the front tires, and going up a steep slope shifts the weight to the rear tires. Any of these conditions may necessitate adjusting tire inflation pressures and/or reducing the maximum allowable load.
Maintaining a clean job site is critical as well. Standing water is one of the primary ingredients needed to cut and puncture a tire, so it’s important to remove standing water whenever possible. Keeping the job site clear from any spillage of materials will undoubtedly help extend tire life.
Establish a routine maintenance schedule
A report of current tire conditions will outline any tires that need to be capped, repaired, matched, rotated or replaced. This information can provide the fleet manager with projected tire needs.
In terms of regular maintenance, monitoring inflation pressures is the most important task in prolonging tire life. Paying proper attention to inflation pressure can extend tire life by up to 30 per cent. It is recommended to check inflation pressures daily before the machine has been started and is still cold.
Additionally, you should know when to replace versus when to repair. A good rule of thumb is to consult your tire dealer on all repairs. If a tire is running low on tread, but is still holding air and is structurally sound, it may be a good candidate for retreading. Pull that tire off with about 15 per cent of the tread remaining. If it goes much further than that, and any of the under-tread compound is exposed, it’s too late.
Don’t forget the wheel
Wheel maintenance often takes a backseat to tire maintenance, but fleet managers should realize wheels are equally as important. A daily machine inspection should include observing the overall profile of the tire and wheel configuration. This means looking for any signs of corrosion and examining component parts such as the rims, flanges, lock rings and driver keys. It is also important to look at the valve stem, caps and core. If any part of the valve is malfunctioning, there is potential to lose air pressure.
Implement the program
A successful long-term program requires involvement and ongoing consultation with the fleet manager, operator and tire dealer. As an operation expands, haul distances, speeds, loads, site conditions, cycle times and equipment configurations can all change. Each of these factors necessitates a change to the tire management program and, as such, the fleet manager should work closely with a tire dealer for recommendations whenever major changes occur.
As a global product manager for Titan International, Johni Francis helps implement tire management programs for aggregate and mine sites all over the world.
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