17 April 2019
This article first appeared in the NZTA Newsletter.
By Shane Epiha
New Zealand, with its vast and varied landscape, has long been a very challenging and experimental environment to test tyre wear and maintenance.
In some less populated areas, there are places where the road is nothing more than a goat track. Thankfully, more trucks and vehicles on the road have contributed to very safe and well-engineered roads to our more popular spots.
With the use of smart technology, management systems, and genius propulsion methods the one thing that remains constant is the contact with the road: our tyres.
Getting the most out of them has been an art, tried and tested for as long as there have been trucks on our roads, and many of the best operators will tell you it starts with the right attitude.
Whenever a new truck is sold, the salesman takes the new owner through the best practice and most efficient way to run and maintain that vehicle, according to 1) the manufacturer’s specifications and 2) experience.
Experience tells us that what you learnt from before you can do better next time by getting on to it sooner.
Tyre brand, tread, and pattern all play a vital role when making cost-effective choices, but the best method is maintenance. In the old days, the good operators could be seen picking the stones out of their tyres as they were walking around checking other areas of the vehicle. It’s an art that needs to be passed on.
Now some say, “When you get a good tyreperson hold on to them,” and it’s true. It’s a tough job and requires a lot more than just fitting black round things. In a sense it’s an art. But what they rely on is feedback from the operators, and if the communication between the two is kept up, the best can be gained from the rubber on the road.
The best maintenance program a driver can run is a tyre tap. All you need is a metal bar and your ears to listen to the subtle difference in the “thud”. Sometimes you must go back to go forward and although there is TPMS (tyre pressure maintenance systems) in the cab, it probably won’t tell you there is a nail halfway through your sidewall. So, when you pull out, get to the first set of lights and have a blowout, a five-minute walk around would have saved you downtime.
There isn’t much about the transport industry that isn’t proactive in approach, but the tried and true method is the best, and why change what’s not broken?
Tyre wear is a science but thankfully it’s not rocket science so here are the best ways to get the most cents per kilometre out of your tyres:
1) Pressure: Tyre pressure is vital; it is the easiest way to get the best out of your tyres. As much as 40 per cent of fuel can be consumed in tyre rolling resistance (getting them going), so it pays to keep them pumped up.
2) Tyre wear: New Zealand roads are engineered differently to anywhere else in the world; our left-hand cambers being the most noticeable. The effect on tyre wear is also “most noticeable” with a glance at the left-hand front steer tyre. Carry that on through the remaining eight axles on the unit and it can get out of control. As the tyreperson will tell you, it all comes back to the eye. Vigilant checks are the best line of defence and “flipping on rims” will get more even wear.
3) Rotations: You say “my tyres rotate every day.” True, but not the same! Steer tyres wear differently depending on “wheel alignment” and drive tyres will generally wear faster on the rear. This comes down to good management but in most cases a “front to rear” or “diagonal” drive rotation will help get even wear right through. It may be of preference that only four at a time are replaced so eight aren’t done together. With some logging trucks, where deep tread is needed, this can work out better as there is a wearing-in period in which there can a be noticeable “walk” in the truck.
4) Alignment and shocks: Steer tyres are basically their own beast. While the drives are the forward pack doing all the grunt work, the steers are the wingers going in for the try and the glory. However, keeping that forward pack going in the right direction is vital to the team’s success.
Formulating the best steer tyre is a conversation on its own, but the two biggest preventative measures in ensuring best wear are a wheel alignment and shock absorbers. With several reputable mobile operators around, both can be done at the same time. The results are worth it.
5) Attitude: The best tyre maintenance comes down to attitude. The biggest problems can always be solved with cool heads and taking time to check tyres or “tyre tap”. Not only will you have a better day, this reinforces the sense of “trucker’s pride” that has been in the transport industry for generations. When a $400,000 vehicle gets stopped by a 1 cent nail, or worse, a stone, it’s little wonder how important tyres are. Respect goes a long way and it starts with the “black round things” that keep us on the road.
The best way forward is a collective approach. Sharing information so that in the end transport wins. Relationships between the tyreperson, the operators, the owners, and the industry will not only give us better “cents per kilometre” but better “sense per kilometre”.