An eye on maintenance: SC&RA comment March 2019
By Joel Dandrea15 March 2019
We’ve all been there: business is humming along and the focus remains on what’s going out the door today and what you’ve got lined up tomorrow. When these sought-after moments emerge, it can be easy to lose sight of how much money is being lost in maintenance. One example is tyres.
As trucking companies often find out, it doesn’t take much to perpetuate a negative trend in business or operational efficiencies. All the more reason to tighten up where you can control it. Where tyres are concerned, one thing you should always avoid is copying someone else’s approach. Too many factors play a part here: ambient temperatures, pavement condition, axle loads, exposure to damage and the skill and diligence (or lack thereof) of the maintenance department.
Drilling down on your own process will always work out more financially favourable. For starters, take a look at your scraps. Analyse the tyres you’ve taken out of service – all of them. Use an up-to-date technology and maintenance tyre-conditions analysis guide. Such a resource will provide photos of tyre conditions for steer, drive and trailer tyres. It will also outline a list of possible causes for the condition, in addition to suggestions for what might need to be done to the vehicle and what to do in operations.
If said conditions point to a maintenance- or service-related item, the tyres will continue to hit the scrap pile until the problem is corrected. Typical maintenance-related causes could be alignment, lack of adequate inflation, improperly matched tyres, suspension issues or improper bearing adjustment. Service-related conditions could include improper repairs, mounting damage with torn beads and load and-or inflation issues. The age of the casings and the number of re-treads they have had also need to be examined.
Mentioned above, every effort must be made to maintain proper tyre pressure. It just takes one time – where a tyre loses enough air overnight to still “sound” inflated the next morning. If the tyre is underinflated enough under full load, separation can happen before the end of the day. It goes without saying, the types of loads SC&RA members are moving around leave no room for this risk. And a hammer-check won’t cut it. Make sure every driver in your fleet owns a gauge and uses it.
Another headline to keep in mind: torque matters. Over-torqueing wheels under the belief that more is better shortens the life and performance of wheels and fasteners. Remember, if technicians are going to use a torque wrench, they have to clean the mating surfaces and inspect the components. If they’re not cleaning wheels or inspecting anything, put away the torque wrenches. An impact wrench might be the best option.
In addition, re-treading tyres can extend casing life two, three or even four times, significantly lowering the life-cycle cost of the tyre. While re-treading costs vary with the type of tread, the quality of the casing and the contract arrangement you have with the retreader, prices are roughly a third to half that of a new tyre.
To that end, dual matching is an area easy to overlook as long as the tread depth is enough to pass inspection. Fleets should remember that improperly matched duals cause irregular wear in both tyres and, in extreme circumstances, overloading of the larger tyre.
All told, still the best way to avoid operational problems and the costs that come with it is to establish a culture of daily checks and regular maintenance. As the saying goes: rinse and repeat. Wear issues with tyres, and corrosion issues with wheels are impossible to avoid, but checking in on both realities daily is the first step in preventing costly repairs down the road.