ROCHESTER HILLS, Mich. (May 25, 2009)—Have you ever seen the television show “Explosion!” Have you ever watched “Blow It Up” on cable TV? Are you into “MythBusters”?
Are Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman your heroes? If you said “Yes” to any of these questions, you're like 95 percent of all the people I know in the commercial tire industry. What is it that makes us fascinated with explosions, destruction and general mayhem?
Perhaps it is the fact that we work in a dangerous industry that presents many ways for us to blow ourselves up or be the cause of great damage. What am I talking about?
If you sit back for a moment and think, I'll bet you can come up with a host of dangerous jobs you do every day while servicing truck tire and wheel assemblies. After all, inflated truck tires are virtual bombs if not handled correctly and tire-and-wheel assemblies that weigh about 200 pounds on average can be lethal projectiles.
Let's just make a quick list of potentially hazardous things that can be dangerous to you or innocent bystanders:
1. Zippered truck tires. Re-inflation of tires that have been run underinflated—80 percent or less of normal pressure—can result in a blow out. Even when inflated in a cage, the impact from the air blast of a tire rupturing can be lethal. I've got to say watching tires blow out is thrilling, however, pulling brain matter off the ceiling and guts off the wall is pretty gross.
2. Truck tire bead seating. Some idiots still use ether and even propane along with a lighted match to seat a truck tire bead and automatically inflate the tire at the same time. The uncontrolled and fiery explosion that occurs can toast the technician so that the body parts are at least medium rare when you scrape them off the wall.
3. Welding on the wheel. Welding on the wheel of a tire-and-wheel assembly is also a trick that will get you seared as well as blown up. Even if you think you've deflated the tire, another fiery explosion is apt to occur when the heat from the welder drastically increases the air pressure in the tire. Can you holler, “Oompah!”?
4. Shrunken wheels. Wheels that have been exposed to heat such as extreme brake heat, a tire fire, mounted with ether or propane, have been welded on or had their tires run flat can have their flange areas shrink. When a new tire is mounted on such a wheel, it can separate from the wheel with explosive force, knocking the technician literally from here to eternity.
5. Solvent-based lubricants. While you would never use a solvent-based lubricant, the person who mounted that tire last may have, which could create an explosive mixture of air and volatiles in the tire. You may be demounting this tire in the middle of your smoke break and Kaboom!! Yep, that's you all over! Don't you just love explosions?!
6. Multi-piece rims/wheels. Thankfully there aren't many of these abominations left in the industry, but you still do find them from time to time. When all the components are not seated right, these rims/wheels are infamous for separating with explosive force and literally taking the head off a technician inflating or inspecting the assembly while the rest of his or her body flies through the air. And that's why they are nicknamed “Killer Wheels.”
7. Emergency road service. Just servicing tires on the side of a busy road is dangerous, as it is a prime location for potential death and destruction. You can get hit by traffic if the disabled vehicle is not parked far enough off the road or you forget to set up emergency, reflective triangles. If you work between your service truck and the disabled trailer and a passing car hits your truck, you can get mangled and crushed as your body is pushed over, under, around and through the trailer's DOT bumper and rear axle like a meat grinder. Is this image gory enough for you?
8. Jacking. Properly jacking a vehicle is critical to your safety. The dangers of a vehicle falling off the jack if not properly secured with jack stands, metal plates and cribbing, if necessary, are not explosive, but they will ruin your day if the truck slips off the jack and lands on you. Can you spell S-Q-U-I-S-H?!
9. Wheel offs. Improperly installing a tire-wheel assembly on a commercial vehicle will not wreck your day, but it probably will ruin someone else's day or perhaps a whole family's day. When a tire-wheel assembly comes off a vehicle enroute, you now have about 200 pounds of rubber and steel rolling and bouncing down the road at potentially 55-65 mph—as fast as the truck was going. When it hits a person, a car or other structure, it makes for a world of hurt. If it bounces, turns horizontal and goes through a vehicle's windshield, it can kill everybody in the car. And that is not a pretty sight.
And the moral is…
So what's my point? It's fun to watch things getting blown up or destroyed in a controlled environment, isn't it? Heck, I've done my share of watching zippered tires blow out in safety cages strategically placed in a parking lot, driving vehicles and having the steer tires blown out from under me to learn how to control the vehicle and experimenting on a track with torque loss to get wheels to come off. It was fun and exhilarating. But it's not fun when these things happen when you're not expecting them.
If you find that you or your employees are being exposed to explosions and accidents, or are the cause of injuries to other people, then you need to get yourself and/or your technicians trained. Even if you haven't had an accident yet and your personnel aren't trained, you are riding on borrowed time.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) has provided training over the past dozen years through its Commercial Tire Service (CTS) training program to more than 32,000 instructors and technicians. In addition Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training, works with many of the industry's tire and wheel companies to develop training videos that address specific aspects of tire and wheel service.
The latest one was made in conjunction with Michelin Americas Truck Tires—and it has all the excitement of both “MythBusters” and “Explosion!”
The video is entitled “Wheel End Safety.” I agree that the name is a little dull, but the footage is exciting. The point of the video is to help you learn how to properly service truck wheels and axle ends to prevent wheel-off accidents, wheel-end fires and not get yourself blown up doing stupid things.
Besides learning important lessons about wheel, brake and wheel bearing installation and maintenance, you'll also see great shots of a wheel coming off a trailer and impacting the side of a car, a tire exploding and blowing the stunt dummy to smithereens as a result of welding on the wheel, as well as get to watch the evolution of a tire fire. Great stuff.
Roy Littlefield, TIA executive vice president, noted that “in addition to wheel-off and wheel-end fire prevention, 'Wheel End Safety' also addresses the dangers of welding on rims and includes dramatic footage that clearly demonstrates the risks to this dangerous practice.”
You can certainly laugh at these explosions and impacts while you watch the video, but remember: You could be the stunt dummy in real life. Take these messages to heart to keep you and/or your employees alive and well to service truck tires in the future.
To view or download this video for free, go to TIA's home page at www.tireindustry.org or to Michelin's Web site at www.michelintruck.com and click on “The Tool Box” to find the video.
It's worth doing, as the information and quality of the video are outstanding.
When you are done with this, switch your television to the Science Channel and watch “How It's Made.” This will make you balanced and well rounded.
You'll also get a better understanding of how to destroy things if you know how they are put together.