What are we in the industry going to do about the zipper phenomenon? As each day goes by, more and more of these catastrophic tire failures come to light. To date, the only information that has had any substance was the recent report issued by the American Retreaders Association on the phenomenon itself and some of the ways service personnel could deal with it.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association, in cooperation with the ARA, also has developed a new wall chart telling tire technicians how to avoid being injured and how to recognize the ``zipper'' problem, and that will be of some help.
In the meantime, there are more than 180,000 workplaces employing some 300,000 people who service heavy-duty truck tires, wheels and rims on a daily basis.
Add to that the hundreds of thousands of locations where the simple task of putting air into a tire is handled by untrained lay people, and we have the potential for thousands of accidents to happen.
A few simple wall charts and an occasional seminar at an industry trade show are not the answer.
The zipper problem is a monumental one that needs to be addressed by every tire manufacturer, trade association, tire supply jobber, distributor, tire dealer management and trucking company management in our industry.
Tire manufacturers, who know this ``zipper'' problem exists, should be swamping their dealers with preventive maintenance materials and techniques.
The same holds true for our national trade associations such as the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, the ARA, the American Trucking Association, The Maintenance Council and the National Private Fleet Carriers.
In addition, tire supply jobbers and distributors who sell the products needed to safely service these potentially dangerous bombs should take it upon themselves to educate their field sales people. These sales people then must carry the message to their customers, repeating it over and over again.
Most importantly, this training information, once it starts to filter down, must be accepted by tire dealers and the managers of places where tires, wheels and rims are serviced. They must see to it that training information is provided to every employee in that organization.
Training and enforcement programs must be set up. These measures are solely for the protection and the safety of those persons servicing these potential bombs.
The management attitude of ``do it the correct way or hit the highway'' should be the motto for every manager who has anything to do with the servicing of heavy-duty truck tires and wheels in our industry.
I have watched for the past 15 years the involvement of our federal government, the Department of Labor and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in passing legislation and issuing statements and proclamations regarding the servicing of heavy-duty truck tires, wheels and rims. Tire manufacturers, wheel manufacturers and our industry's trade associations have produced voluminous materials on the proper servicing of tires and wheels.
The vast majority of these instructions, wall charts, videos etc. go unheeded by management and workers.
I believe the philosophy of ``it won't happen to me'' is the prevailing sentiment. And it won't-until it does. Then it is too late.
In our industry, service people come and go like water off a duck's back-here today and gone tomorrow. For the most part, proper training and education don't exist. It is time we, as an industry, do something about this.
If you think servicing multipiece rims was a problem, wait until you see the problems that result in servicing the heavy-duty and light truck steel-belted radials of the future.
Multipiece wheel failures will look like a cake walk compared with those we are going to see with steel-belted radial truck tires. All of this because of improper service techniques, improper preventive maintenance programs for truck tires and the lack of concern for employees by employers.
George M. Jordan and Associates