Well, the elections are over and the country still has a Democrat, Bill Clinton, as President. However, things have changed. Both the Democrats and Republicans have finally realized that their constituents—you and I—are fed up with ultra-liberalism as well as ultra-conservatism and that being in the middle of the political spectrum is where most Americans want the country to operate.
This means that while we do not want to have government in every aspect of our lives and businesses, we do want responsible actions in areas where the government needs to make changes, such as Medicare and Social Security.
But most of all, the electorate sent a strong message to both parties that it is tired of non-productive, bipartisan squabbling and that it wants both Republicans and Democrats to begin working together to accomplish the things that need to be done, such as balancing the budget and handling tough national issues.
It's about time they got the message!
The Canadian province of Ontario, however, has taken a different view of government involvement with its latest action regarding wheel run-offs.
As of Nov. 1, the Ontario government has required businesses to put almost all of their employees who remove and install wheels on commercial vehicles through an eight-hour certification course on wheel maintenance and installation procedures.
In this province, this regulation means that only 5,000 to 6,000 people will need to be certified, because in Canada, Class A mechanics already have been trained on truck wheels.
Since the average cost of training a person is $150, the cost to businesses in Ontario that have to have their people certified will be approximately $900,000 plus 48,000 hours of lost work time.
The questions are: ``How did this all come about?'' and ``What is going to happen here in the U.S.?''
In Canada, things work a little differently than in the U.S. In 1995, two people died in separate accidents caused by wheel separations in Ontario. Because of the close timing of these casualties and the media fanfare that quickly arose, the issue was given to a body similar to a grand jury, which consists of ordinary citizens.
These well-meaning people were then provided the viewpoints of ``expert witnesses'' as to the causes and the degree of the problem of wheels coming off trucks.
The opinions from most knowledgeable wheel people south of the Canadian border are that those ``experts''—who made a living providing training to commercial end-users—really exerted influence and distorted many facts to convince the jury that more training should be mandated.
It is amazing to me that the Canadians did not look first to see what has been done in the United States regarding this issue. We went through exactly the same scenario with a much different outcome.
Here, in the fall of 1991, a series of five truck wheel runoff accidents occurred in which a total of seven people died. One accident involved a school bus.
Naturally, the media went crazy. There was even a reporter in North Carolina who, in an attempt to win a Pulitzer Prize, went on a crusade to ``get something done'' about this problem. As a result, a congressmen from North Carolina had the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) investigate the wheel runoff problem.
The NTSB spent considerable time gathering data and investigating the problem. It surveyed states for their accident data and interviewed truck carriers, manufacturers, engineers and mechanics to obtain information for this special investigation. It concluded that, nationwide, the incidence of medium/heavy truck wheel separation accidents is small, about 0.3 percent of all truck accidents.
And the leading causes of wheel separations are wheel bearing failure and improper tightening of wheel fasteners, which are both the result of inadequate maintenance.
It recommended that the trucking and wheel industries and the truck and trailer manufacturers develop and disseminate guidelines for inspection and maintenance of all types of medium-/heavy-duty wheels.
It also recommended that labels be provided on trucks that indicate the proper installation method for the wheels/rims on the vehicle, and that an educational program on wheel tightening procedures be promoted.
It further requested that the industry develop uniform, recommended practices on truck wheel bearing maintenance.
The Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations (TMC) immediately began work on these recommendations. It created the User's Guide to Wheels and Rims, which is a book that describes each wheel system used in North America (hub-piloted and stud-piloted disc wheel systems and the spoke wheel/demountable rim system).
It also relates the inspection procedures and the maintenance required for each system.
Special attention is given to installation procedures and the recommended torque is provided for each type of fastener.
Since lack of fastener torque is often related to inadequate impact wrenches and air systems, it also has a section on impact wrench selection and maintenance and air system maintenance.
The book includes 58 pages of ``Out of Service Conditions,'' describing these conditions, their causes and proper disposition of the wheels/rims and fasteners.
This is an outstanding training and reference aid and is the most complete guide ever produced.
The TMC also produced a training video, entitled ``Wheel and Rim Inspection,'' that shows the viewer what to look for when inspecting wheels/rims on a vehicle, and also illustrates wheel and rim conditions for which roadside inspectors will place vehicles out of service.
A standard format for vehicle labels is currently being voted on by the TMC membership. These labels will be placed near the steer, drive and trailer wheels on all new vehicles and will be available to fleets for installation on older equipment from wheel and equipment manufacturers.
The labels specify the wheel system on the axle, the type of nuts used, the size of the nut threads that are used, the torque that is recommended, the tightening sequence and the frequency for retorquing the fasteners. This ``Recommended Practice'' should be official in March 1997.
Finally, to address the wheel bearing issue, the TMC also issued technician pocket guides and wall charts of ``Recommend Practice (RP) 618: Wheel Bearing Adjustment Procedures,'' issued ``RP 622: Wheel Seal and Bearing Removal, Installation and Maintenance'' in 1992 and just released ``RP 631: Procedures for Wheel End Lubrication.'' All of these are great references and training aids for wheel bearing maintenance and installation.
All that is left now is to get this information into the hands of all people who service truck wheels. Everyone does need to be trained.
I think this work is a classic example of what government and industry can do by working together. It is not necessary for government to regulate all aspects of safety and business. In most cases, these types of mandatory efforts fall short of being effective, yet still manage to be costly.
Can you imagine the billions of dollars it would cost the trucking industry and truck service providers like body shops and commercial tire dealers if everyone in the U.S. had to send their employees for wheel certification training? (This would include Class A mechanics.)
Fortunately, rational, knowledgeable minds prevailed, and a concerted effort on everyone's part to work together to eliminate this problem resulted in the handling of one tough national issue.To order any of the above-mentioned materials from The Maintenance Council, call (703) 838-1763 or write TMC at 2200 Mill Road, Alexandria, Va. 22314.