As sure as death and taxes, no matter how good a trucking fleet's tire maintenance program is, tire delays enroute are going to happen.
No trucker is immune to these delays and their associated downtime and increased tire operating costs. Lately, a growing number of fleets are taking hard looks at their emergency tire service providers and evaluating the breakdown and repair services they are getting on the road.
Post road service quality control plays a big part in their tire maintenance programs. Once vehicles return to these fleets' maintenance facilities after experiencing emergency road calls, shop technicians inspect the vehicles for proper tire size and tread, dual matching, tire pressure and mounting torque. Tire maintenance data is then recorded.
Fleets report that a common problem associated with road service is the availability of a tire vendor or service provider on a timely basis. This, of course, is critical for keeping driver costs down and deliveries punctual. But from a vehicle standpoint, the quality of the road service work also is frequently an issue.
All too often, road service repairs have failed or were installed poorly and have had to be redone; tire inflation was inadequate; valve stems/caps were not replaced; and wheels were installed improperly with incorrect torque. Drivers reported that faulty jacks were used, service truck compressors were inadequate and torque wrenches were nowhere in sight.
This raises the nasty questions of whether the service technicians were properly trained and whether the service trucks were equipped with proper, well-maintained tools.
My good friend and associate Dave Walters, with Alcoa Wheel Products International, has observed hundreds, maybe even thousands of tire technicians install tire and wheel assemblies. He also has been active in The Maintenance Council (TMC) and contributed to the development of the User's Guide to Wheels and Rims, which is a comprehensive guide providing step-by-step procedures for proper wheel installation.
He recently shared some eye-opening, real-world observations, which indicated how closely the TMC procedures are being followed in the field. While these are his observations and not a scientific survey, Dave's data would appear to portray the state of service encountered by fleets today.
Below are listed the steps that should be followed when installing tire and wheel assemblies according to TMC's User's Guide and the percentage of time Dave estimates these steps are performed in the real world.
Disc wheel installation:
1) Check parts for damage, dirt and grease—80 percent;
2) Ensure brake drum is fully seated—60 percent;
3) Use a wire brush to clean each wheel stud—5 percent;
4) Check for damaged studs—25 percent;
5) If a broken stud is found, replace stud on each side of broken stud—25 percent;
6) If two or more studs are broken, replace all—5 percent;
7) Install studs with a press—1 percent.
Hub piloted wheel installation:
1) Make sure the center hole of the wheel is clean so it will fit easily on the hub pilots—25 percent;
2) Check wheel nuts. Make sure the nuts turn smoothly on their flanges—50 percent;
3) Apply two drops of oil between the nut body and the flange—5 percent;
4) Apply two drops of oil to the last 2-3 threads of each stud—2 percent;
5) Lubricate the pilots on the hub—50 percent;
6) Do not get any lubricant on the mounting face of the drum or wheel—50 percent;
7) Place one hub pilot at the 12 o'clock position—40 percent;
8) For dual wheels, make sure the outer wheel is against the inner wheel—80 percent;
9) Install nuts finger tight at the 12 o'clock and 6 o'clock positions for alignment—70 percent;
10) Snug nuts up to 50 ft. lbs. and use the proper tightening sequence to torque to 450-500 ft. lbs.—5 percent;
11) Check to see if wheels are properly installed—30 percent;
12) Rotate wheels and examine for irregularity on pilot pads—5 percent;
13) Make sure all studs have the same amount of threads past the nuts—5 percent.
Stud piloted wheel installation:
1) Be certain you have correct fasteners. (There are different fasteners for aluminum wheels)—60 percent;
2) Separate frozen cap nuts prior to reinstalling the wheel—80 percent;
3) Never lubricate the wheel, nut seats or mounting faces—50 percent;
4) Install inner wheel, snug up inner cap nuts to 50 ft. lbs. using proper tightening sequence—20 percent;
5) Torque to 450-500 ft. lbs.—5 percent;
6) Install outer dual wheel; install two outer nuts 180 degrees apart, finger tight to locate the wheel—10 percent;
7) Retorque between 50-100 miles—0 percent;
8) Periodically calibrate air wrenches for proper torque output if they are used—10 percent.
Cast spoke wheel/rim installation:
1) Ensure correct spacer band, rim and clamp combinations are used—60 percent;
2) Check parts for damage—80 percent;
3) Clean cast spoke wheel with wire brush—20 percent;
4) Replace any damaged or distorted parts—50 percent;
5) Install the rim on wheel after tire is inflated—80 percent;
6) Align the locators between the spoke and install rim—95 percent;
7) For rear assemblies, push spacer band over cast spoke wheel evenly—80 percent;
8) Place the outer dual rim in position—90 percent;
9) Secure clamps evenly and snug nuts using proper tightening sequence—20 percent;
10) Tighten nuts to recommended torque—0 percent;
11) Be sure not to exceed the recommended torque values—2 percent;
12) Retorque nuts between 50-100 miles of operation—0 percent;
13)Periodically calibrate air wrenches for proper torque output if used—5 percent.
Looking at these numbers, it's a miracle that more wheels don't come off enroute! It's also not hard to understand why truck operators are concerned about their emergency road service and conduct post road service inspections.
This month fleets will receive a new tool to help them improve the tire service they receive on the road. The International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA) will begin distributing its Commercial Tire Service Directory which contains the names not only all of the ITRA members offering commercial tire service, but highlights those that have technicians trained and certified by ITRA's Commercial Tire Service Training Program.
Those technicians have been trained using the TMC's User's Guide to Wheels and Rims, and each technician has a copy in his orher possession.
What is the state of service your company provides? How do your technicians rate in performing the steps listed above? Have they been formally trained to install all of these wheel systems correctly? Have you watched them recently to see whether they actually and routinely perform each step?
If not, take the next couple of days or week and make a survey of your own to see how they perform. If the results are not so good, contact ITRA for training and certification information.
You'll need information on how to get your company listed in the Commercial Tire Service Directory and highlighted as a dealer with certified technicians because your fleet customers will require service expertise soon.