LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Tire dealers, retreaders, repairers and others who handle all-steel radial truck tires now have industry guidelines to follow to help avoid injuries resulting from zipper ruptures. The American Retreaders' Association announced the recommended practices at a special industry forum April 5, prior to its annual World Tire Conference.
Attendees received a package of materials containing recommendations from both the ARA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association on safer methods for handling tires that may zipper.
They also received two videos: ``Retread/Repair Plant Inspection Procedures for Identification of Potential Zipper Ruptures in Steel Cord Radial Medium and Light Truck Tires''; and ``Detecting Potential Zipper Ruptures in Steel Cord Radial Tires in Tire Service Operations.''
The package also included a sample warning label that can be affixed to any truck tire, but particularly all-steel radials, to remind anyone servicing or retreading them to use proper pre-cautions during inflation.
It's important to place the warning label on all tires, said Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the ARA, noting that the most frequent charge in product liability claims is ``failure to warn.''
Placing the warning label on every tire that's been worked on may not absolve the retreader, repairer or servicer of liability, but it will help in the event of a lawsuit and could prevent injuries, he said.
The same reasoning applies to training anyone who might be exposed to a tire with the potential to experience a zipper rupture.
Mr. Bozarth urged all retreaders, repairers and tire servicers to thoroughly review the videos and written material and use them to conduct training programs with employees and customers. Businesses should maintain a file with the signature of each person who attends a training session, he said.
``ARA is making these materials available to you at no charge because it is extremely important that this information be disseminated throughout the tire and transportation industries. . .,'' Mr. Bozarth said in a letter accompanying the packet.
The ARA also announced that a wall chart, produced by the RMA, will be available sometime in the future to accompany the RMA's technical and service bulletin on inspection procedures.
The information package presented to forum attendees, and available free-of-charge on the trade show floor, was an outgrowth of a 13-member task force appointed a year ago and made up of tire manufacturing and retreading industry experts.
The task force met five times during the past year, according to Michael W. Berra, ARA president. After listening to numerous presentations by industry experts, the group decided the best approach was to make recommendations for inspection and mounting techniques based on currently available equipment.
The recommendations are ``a first step'' in a continuing process to eliminate the zipper rupture as a problem for the industry, Mr. Berra said. ``We realize there are new technologies in various stages of development that may improve our ability to inspect worn or damaged tires for potential zipper conditions in the future.''
In his address to forum attendees, Mr. Berra said he personally knew of 22 personal injuries allegedly caused by zipper ruptures in all-steel truck radials, all of which have resulted in lawsuits.
In 20 of these cases, the tire ruptured while being inflated outside of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration-mandated safety cage, he added.
``It is painfully clear,'' Mr. Berra said, ``that if we as an industry do not do a better job of educating our employees and our customers in the proper tire mounting procedures, we are going to be in for some real trouble.''
Zipper ruptures are most commonly caused by underinflation and overloading of tires, Mr. Bozarth said.
To avoid potential zipper ruptures in all-steel medium and light truck radials, the task force recommended that retreaders and service personnel ``look, feel and listen'' for signs of problems.
The ARA and RMA guidelines, which differ slightly depending on the work being done, generally advised servicers to:
1) Look for signs of weakness or damage to the tire, including sidewall ripples or bulges, bead rubber torn to the fabric or steel, discoloration of the innerliner, cuts, snags or chips that expose body cords or steel;
2) Feel the tire's sidewalls for soft spots, ripples or bulges, or protruding filaments that indicate broken cords.
3) Listen, while rolling and feeling the tire and, after placing the tire in a cage and inflating it to no more than 20 psi, for popping sounds caused by shifting or breaking steel cords.
The RMA guidelines recommend approaching with caution any tire suspected of having been operated underinflated and/or overloaded.
The suspect tire should be com-pletely deflated by removing the valve core before demounting it from the vehicle. Then the tire should be clearly identified so it will not be reinflated until it has been carefully inspected.
Among the detailed, four-page RMA guidelines is a new recommended inspection procedure for tires suspected of having been run underinflated or overloaded. The final step in that procedure involves inflating the tire, in a safety cage, to 20 psi above the recommended operating pressure and leaving it there for 20 minutes.
If no sign of damage is noted, the tire can be deflated to its proper operating pressure and placed into service.
Mr. Bozarth stressed that the RMA and ARA both recommend that light truck tires be inflated in a safety cage, even though OHSA does not require this procedure. In addition, retreaders and tire servicers should follow the other OSHA guidelines and remain a safe distance from the cage, using an extension hose with a clip-on air chuck and pressure regulator.
The ARA is sending the package of recommended procedures, including the videos, to all association members free of charge. Additional copies of the videos are available to ARA members at $15 each; $25 to non-members.