AKRON-Few prospects are more terrifying to the over-the-road truck driver than having a front tire blow out at high speed. The thought of trying to bring a 40-ton tractor-trailer rig under control as it careens wildly across the highway can chill the spine of even the most intrepid trucker.
However, Tyron U.S.A. Inc., a New Jersey company, has introduced a safety device it said can take the terror out of such catastrophic tire failures.
Called the Tyron Safety Band, the device already is widely used by truckers and motorists in Europe and the United Kingdom, where it was originally developed for military- and government-owned vehicles. However, it wasn't until the Liberty Corner, N.J., firm recently began importing the product that it became available in North America.
It consists of a zinc-plated steel band that mounts into the drop-center portion of the typical wheel to securely lock the tire onto the rim.
The band works by prohibiting the tire's beads from slipping into the drop center of the wheel, which is necessary to prevent the opposite bead from jumping over the rim flange. This keeps the beads locked onto the rim, which the company said allows the driver complete control of the vehicle during and after a tire puncture, deflation or catastrophic failure.
Moreover, the company said, the Tyron Safety Band also provides limited runflat capability, allowing the driver to motor on at reduced speed-without damaging the wheel-until arriving at an area suitable for safely changing the deflated tire.
Members of the trade press, tire manufacturers and potential customers were given a chance to see the Tyron Safety Band in action, Oct. 4, when company officials staged a demonstration in Akron.
There, Tyron officials used explosives to simulate blowouts on the left front tire of an 18-wheel semi truck and a large recreation vehicle-both traveling at more than 50 mph over a restricted roadway.
To prove he was experiencing no discomfort caused by the deflated tire, driver Richard Lust took his hands off the steering wheel both times as he motored by onlookers.
And, as a further demonstration of the tire product's runflat capabilities, he turned around each time and drove back over the quarter-mile course to where the crowd was standing, swerving each vehicle as if on a slalom course during his return trip.
Then after each of the two vehicles was brought to a stop, onlookers were encouraged to examine the condition of both tire and wheel. Not surprisingly, the deflated tires were virtually destroyed. But both wheels emerged undamaged-protected by the rubber and fabric of the deflated tire.
Mr. Lust, who is president of Tyron U.K., the Southampton, England, company that manufacturers and markets the product in Europe, said the same truck wheel has been used again and again without adverse effect during similar demonstrations across the U.S.
The Akron demonstration was staged with the help of George M. ``Mike'' Jordan of Equipment Supply Co. in Brooksville, Fla., which will market the Tyron Safety Band through its 675 distributors in the U.S.
Mr. Jordan told the gathering that ``finding a solution to blowouts on the steering axle'' was one of the three most frequently sought-after vehicle improvements suggested by drivers in a recent survey conducted by The Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations.
Richard Darche, the president of Tyron U.S.A., said U.K. statistics show that ``one in every six accidents'' on M-series roadways (the British equivalent of the U.S. Interstate Highway System) resulted from a catastrophic tire failure on the steering axle of a vehicle.
``What we're trying to sell here is a very low cost insurance policy,'' Mr. Darche said, adding that some insurers in the U.K. and elsewhere give a 10-percent discount on policy premiums for using Tyron bands.
Meanwhile, Mr. Lust said tire failures may also be a significant factor in the growing number of accidents on the shoulder areas of British highways.
In addition to such safety benefits, the Tyron band also eliminates the possibility of damage to vehicle brake lines and suspension components that can occur as the deflated tire revolves uncontrollably in the wheel well, company officials said.
The band is installed after the tire is in place on the rim. In doing so, the installer pushes down slightly on the side of the tire and slips the band into the wheel well. The ends of the band are then fastened by a connector which is tightened using a factory-supplied Allen key.
The concept was first developed in 1979 by Avon Rubber Co. for British military service.
Officials here will target the trucking and RV markets before pushing the product to car owners.
Tyron officials say the bands already are optional equipment on some Volvo and Land Rover models in the U.K. and will become an option on both Mercedes cars and trucks there before the end of this year.
Tyron Safety Bands currently are offered in a variety of sizes, ranging from 13-inch auto sizes to 22.5-inch for truck rims, and ranging in price from $42.95 per band to about $79.95. A 24.5-inch band for trucks is expected to debut shortly.
Following a sudden loss of air pressure, a tire's beads will be drawn into the well of a drop-center wheel as shown in the diagram on the left. Tyron U.S.A. Inc. said that when a wheel is fitted with its safety band, shown on the right, the beads are prohibited from entering the well, thereby keeping the tire on the wheel and allowing the driver to retain vehicle control even at high speeds.