Sep 10, 2014

 Todd Hawkins, Senior Vice President, First Transit
Dale Domish, Senior Vice President, First Vehicle Services

Tire safety statistics the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) highlighted in a May 12 announcement stopped me in my tracks.

Each year there are almost 200 U.S. fatalities as a result of tire-related crashes and there are approximately 11,000 tire-related crashes in total, the federal highway safety agency said. 

The sobering numbers came out as part of a TireWise campaign that NHTSA launched to provide American consumers with essential information about choosing and caring for tires. 

It struck me that fleet managers are similarly motivated to avoid needless deaths and injuries, and could benefit from tire advice that keeps drivers safe and, as a bonus, just might save some money. 

Here are some best practices we follow at First Vehicle Services: 

Buying tires
It is very important to purchase tires with the proper load range/ply rating.  Failure to do this can lead to blowouts and/or accidents.   This gets particularly important with Medium and heavy duty (HD) trucks.  Sizes are important, but load range is critical.  The load range is determined by the gross vehicle weight (GVW) of the vehicle and axle.  This should also be looked at for trailers, light duty and utility vehicles.  

In addition, it’s important to consider the environment when purchasing tires. For example, all-season tires work well in most four-season climates.  If, however, your vehicle is based in heavy snow areas such as in the mountains or Colorado, more aggressive tread patterns should be considered.  There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to purchasing tires.  All factors need to be carefully considered.   

Checking tire pressure
Tire Pressure should be checked routinely. Typically at every PM, and more often if the vehicle goes through seasonal temperatures. Under-inflated tires could result in excessive temperatures, increased fuel consumption and instability in handling.  Over-inflation could cause damage to suspension components and possible blowouts if extremely over-inflated.   

Tire Replacement
There are several factors we look at when replacing tires. In addition to monitoring the wear bars, careful inspections of worn tires could warn us of alignment issue and /or suspension and steering issues.  Additionally, on vehicles that do not travel very far, it is important to pay attention to the date codes. Typically, tires should be carefully examined anytime the tire date code indicates it is five years old or older.  Although the Department of Transportation (DOT) has no specific time to remove a tire from service based on date, it is recommended that tires be inspected carefully at the five-year mark and then carefully inspected at least annually. 

Your fleet is unique, but some tire maintenance practices are universal. Saving lives is the best incentive, but following these tips also can also lead to significant cost savings. 

It’s only fitting to give the last word on this subject to musical genius Roy Orbison, who once said, “I may be a living legend, but that sure don’t help when I’ve got to change a flat tire.”