If you want to avoid big trouble when it comes to your truck tires, as the old saying goes, “It’s all in the details.”
Truck drivers are constantly being lured by billboards and truck stop ads promising cut rate tires that can deliver great performance and outlast big brand name treads. Don’t get caught by this trap.
Owner/operators have been suffering from surging tire prices due to increases in raw materials, with no real end to the trend in sight. Same goes for small fleets. Costs are up, and tires are simply one of the big factors behind it.
So what do some owner/operators do to maximize the value of their tire investment? If you’re an independent trucker, can you do the same?
Tip 1: Avoid off-shore brands. More and more drivers are beginning to realize that gambling on an off-brand simply isn’t worth it in the long run. They may cost less, they may actually last long, but the compromise you’re forced into during hazardous weather conditions will make you think twice.
When Angelo Diplacido tried some off-shore brand tires on his small fleet of trucks, he found tread life was adequate, but the performance was anything but.
“They did last,” he recalls. “However, the compromise in rainy and snowy weather was just horrific.”
Greg Decker, an owner/operator with Mullen Group, puts it more bluntly.
“I’ve been trying cheaper brands but they’re garbage,” he asserts. He turns to a trustworthy truck tire fuel savings calculator to help determine which brand and model is best for his operation.
Tip 2: Check truck tires with a calibrated gauge. And check them often.
Decker says he checks his tire pressures every three to four days. He uses Alligator double-seal flow-through valve stem caps on all tire stems to streamline what can be a cumbersome process.
Tire gauges don’t always tell the full story right off the shelf. He purchased three tire gauges a few weeks ago and found an 11 psi variation between them when measuring the same tire. Many independent truckers recommend buying brand name gauges and then calibrating them. Always keep ambient temperatures. A tire that’s down 20 psi is going to experience a temperature increase of 100 C, and it’s just a matter of whether the adhesive holds up before a blow-out occurs.
Tip 3: Stick to a tire rotation schedule.
Assuming that tires will wear evenly across every position is a mistake, and one that could be costly. Even if identical new tires are placed at every position and then properly maintained, some will wear more rapidly than others. Keep in mind the centrifugal force on the driving tire. That one usually wears out first.
Tip 4: Management of tires means watching wear.
Decker reinforces his idea that viewing up close might not tell the whole story.
“You’ll see feather wear on the edges, especially on air-ride trailers. If you start to see that, you’ve almost waited too long,” he says. “When you walk around the truck, thump the tires, check for flats and look for visible wear spots. If you have one tire that you flat-spotted and didn’t realize it, it will show itself. When walking back to your truck, look at the tires. Sometimes you won’t see it when standing right there beside it, but you will see it when you’re standing back. Sometimes you have to be back 20 feet before you notice something looks wrong.”
Tip 5: A well-maintained truck means higher-performing tires
Good shocks and alignment can make the difference. Low-cost, common sense repairs can go a long way. Replace shocks at least every 3 years, and when you have a free day, make a note to get an alignment. It’ll save you more every day, which translates into hundreds and even thousands every year.