Ssssshhhhh. Do you want to know a secret? Lean a little closer into your copy of Tire Business. I want to whisper a secret to you that very few people in the tire or trucking industry know.
It affects you if you repair truck tires for your customers or if you are a truck tire retreader. It's a small secret but it's an important one.
The secret is you can now use the blue triangle radial tire repair identifier patch to identify bulges for both section and nail hole repairs.
That's the secret. Almost nobody knows about this. Last year the American Trucking Associations' Technology & Maintenance Council (TMC) voted to change its Recommended Practice RP226 Radial Tire Repair Identifier—the Blue Triangle—to identify not just section repairs but also nail hole repairs.
This may not sound like much to you at first, but it is taking on greater importance this year as the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's (FMCSA) Comprehensive Safety Analysis 2010 rating system—known as CSA 2010—looms on the horizon.
RP226 was first issued in 1992. It created the use of the blue triangular patch on a sidewall to indicate that a bulge in a radial tire was the result of a section repair and not a separation in the tire. Its purpose is to prevent the possibility of the tire (and vehicle) being placed out of service due to what a safety inspector, driver or mechanic perceives as a dangerous tire defect and not a normal tire repair bulge.
This recommended practice (RP) also established the maximum size of an acceptable bulge at 3/8-inch above the surrounding surface of the inflated tire and specifies the size of the blue, equilateral, triangular label to have sides of 1/2-inch to 1 1/2 inches.
It also specifies that the triangle be placed just above the rim flange area in the immediate vicinity of the bulge but not on the bulge.
RP226 has been reviewed and revised three times over the last 18 years although never substantially until last year. Even at that, just a few words were changed, the biggest change being deleting the word “section” so that any bulge that is repair-related can be identified as a serviceable condition and not a sidewall separation.
You're probably reading this and thinking, “this is no big deal. Most of my fleet customers don't use or request the blue triangle anyway. I don't have to worry about this. It doesn't affect me.”
And you know, you're right! At the moment most fleets probably don't even know about the blue triangle much less want to have it installed on their tires. But this is going to change quite soon.
CSA 2010 has been pushed back to 2011 but that's only a few months away. In case you missed my column in the May 24 issue of Tire Business, CSA 2010 is a new fleet safety rating system designed to improve large truck and bus safety—and ultimately reduce commercial motor vehicle-related crashes, injuries and fatalities.
This system gathers data from roadside inspections, traffic violations and crashes and analyzes them in a new way. Any problems that occur even if not ticketed or cited are included in the fleet's safety record, which determines whether a carrier can continue to operate on U.S. highways.
It is causing terminal nausea in the trucking industry because it links state and federal databases together so that no one can hide from the FMCSA now as fleets with bad, computer-generated safety records will automatically pop up and be recognized. This is a big change from the old method's haphazard way of identifying only the worst and usually larger fleets on the nation's roadways.
In case you didn't know, tires are the second leading cause of roadside inspection citations after brakes. Because every ticket or out of service citation for a tire that has a bulge in it is another tick mark in the “Bad” column of each fleet's CSA 2010 rating, all fleets are going to, or should, be requesting the use of the blue triangular patch on their repaired tires.
Bulges aren't swell
We all know that repaired radial tires have the potential to bulge at the repaired area when they are inflated. This is due to the repositioning of the cables that have been cut in the repair process. The cables may spread apart and the rubber between the cables then stretches under pressure and creates a bulge.
A proper repair restores the tire's original air retention and strength characteristics, but bulges can still result.
Nail hole repairs in the crown area can result in a sidewall bulge just as section repairs in the crown or sidewall can, but the width of the bulge is smaller since the number of cords cut is fewer. As long as the bulge does not exceed 3/8-inch in height above the tire sidewall, the tire can be installed on a vehicle and run. However, if the bulge is larger than 3/8-inch, there is a problem with the repair and the tire must be scrapped.
State and provincial vehicle inspectors in the U.S. and Canada—known collectively as the Commercial Vehicle Safety Alliance (CVSA)—are the ones who conduct roadside inspections of commercial vehicles. They know that repair-related bulges are OK to run, but they are not able to have tires demounted so that they can look inside for the repair unit. All they can do is look for repair buff marks on the sidewall to determine if the tire was section repaired.
If they don't notice a bulge that results from a nail hole or section repair in the tread or is buried under the retread, they will believe the tire has a sidewall separation and will put the vehicle out of service.
That means it can't be moved until the tire is replaced. They also will issue a ticket and an accompanying fine. These actions will be entered into the state inspection database and will go against the fleet's safety record. A large accumulation of these instances could jeopardize the fleet's continued operations.
You should know that even the CVSA state and provincial inspectors are concerned about this issue. Just in the last few weeks I was contacted by the head of vehicle inspections for the Ministry of Transportation in Canada.
She asked me how an officer can tell if a tire has been repaired if the blue triangle patch is not applied, and she sent me a photo of a tire that had been put out of service with a bulge but had no triangular patch. She wanted to know if there are any other indicators on the tire that she could advise her inspectors to look for.
I explained that they could look for a plugged/filled area in the tread just above the bulge and for buff marks on the sidewall if the tire was section repaired in the sidewall. But if a crown repair was covered by the tread during the retreading process, there would be no signs short of demounting the tire and checking for a repair unit.
Since demounting the tire is not possible, the only alternative is for fleets to use the blue triangle to identify repairs. Looking at the photo (below) of a tire that was put out of service by inspectors due to the sidewall bulge, you can understand their problem.
So as you can see, truckers will have to start using the blue triangle patch in earnest to avoid being put out of service for tires that have a “bump or knot suggesting tread/sidewall separation” per CVSA Out-of-Service Criteria.
Installing the blue triangle is no big deal. It's the same procedure as installing a small, chemical-cured patch inside the tire, only you put it on the outside sidewall. It is something for which you may have to charge a little bit more. There is a cost for these patches and labor to install them, but the cost is small.
You may find it helpful just to roll it into your charges for nail hole and section repairs because you should put them on every one of these repairs since tires with either repair have a propensity to bulge under pressure. If fleet operators balk at this, just remind them that this is a small price to pay for a good safety record.
Now with the heat turned up on vehicle inspections, all of that data going to a monster federal database and fleets now repairing tires more than ever before, do you think truckers are going to have to use blue triangle patches? Of course they are! This is exactly what they were designed for.
You probably have fleet accounts that don't even know about the blue triangle. Spread the word and share the secret!
It's up to you to tell them. By doing so, you could save them thousands of dollars in fines and lost productivity as well as improve their safety record and keep them in business.
And isn't that the best way to keep commercial customers?