NASHVILLE, Tenn.-Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. has announced the development of a prototype ``active'' computer chip for truck tires that provides fleet man-agers with ``real time'' information on tire temperature and inflation pressure. ``This breakthrough technology has the potential to revolutionize the tire maintenance programs of truck fleets across America,'' said Walt Weller, BFS division vice president of truck tire sales, in making the announcement at The Maintenance Council trucking convention in Orlando, Fla., March 12.
The system, which BFS touted as the first of its kind in the industry, is a maintenance tool for fleet operators to get more value out of their tires.
``It will significantly reduce the number of man-hours devoted to tire maintenance and drastically improve tire wear and fuel efficiency. For a large national fleet, the annual savings could be in the millions of dollars,'' Mr. Weller said.
The system is still undergoing field testing with Ryder System trucks, but BFS expects to have it on the market ``within a year.'' The exact price has not been determined, a BFS spokesman said.
The computer ``tag,'' consisting of a computer chip and a battery with a projected lifespan of 10 years, is placed inside the tire and can remain there for the life of the tire, even through multiple retreadings, BFS said. A company's truck terminal would have an external PC system that includes an antenna to read the data via radio frequency from each of a rig's 18 tires when in the yard. A computer software package then evaluates and records the data.
Each tag carries a permanent identification for its respective tire so the computer can identify the tire, record its exact temperature and air pressure and maintain an ongoing history. A low air pressure condition would be highlighted on the truck terminal's computer monitor.
Since accurate pressure readings should be taken when the tire is cold, BFS said the chip can adjust a hot tire pressure reading to the equivalent cold pressure reading.
The system is a labor saver, according to BFS, since fleets with good maintenance programs can weekly spend up to 20 minutes per truck manually checking tire air pressure.
While ``passive'' computer chips in tires is not revolutionary, BFS said its technology is a breakthrough because its ``active'' chip provides real time information on temperature and pressure, has a memory for storing the data and can be re-programmed.
Conversely, passive chips embedded in tires can only transmit information, mainly for inventorying purposes.
The technology also will help retreaders, BFS said. Rather than visually inspecting tires to determine temperature history and retreading application, retreaders will be able to read a tire's temperature history from the tag and select the correct tread pattern and tread depth without guesswork.
BFS developed the system in partnership with Computer Methods Corp. (CMC) of Livonia, Mich. The tag was the result of a cooperative effort between CMC, Amtech Systems Corp. of Dallas and BFS.
Mr. Weller said BFS and CMC are continuing to reduce tag size for easier application.
BFS' plan is to begin embedding the tags in mainstream truck tire lines currently in use. But it said eventually the chips may be inputted during tire manufacturing.