Thirty-four years before George Harrison ultimately popularized the term “taxman” in the hit of the same name with The Beatles, who would have known that the Revenue Act would start an endless cycle of taxation on tires. The first Federal Excise Tax (FET) in 1932 was based on the physical weight of the tire, and it applied to all tires and inner tubes. In 1956, the Federal-Aid Highway Act added taxes for off-highway tires and tread rubber to establish the Highway Trust Fund, which would direct the money collected to highway construction and maintenance. This
Technology has an ironic way of solving one set of problems while creating another. When bias ply tires and leaf spring suspensions dominated the trucking industry decades ago, drivers expected trucks to ride like trucks. I can still remember an entire summer of balancing tires for a school bus fleet because we eliminated a vibration for one driver. Word traveled fast around the garage and within a week of iproving the ride, we had a steady stream of drivers with similar problems that we were happy to solve.
My forecast for radio frequency identification (RFID) tags in truck tires was mostly cloudy in early 2012. There was a lot of talk regarding field tests and blue-sky benefits but no real solutions. Fast-forward about a year and a half, and Michelin announced that it is making its patents for RFID technology available at no cost in order to promote it in the truck tire industry. The main condition is that whomever uses the technology must agree to execute it in compliance with international standards established by several tire companies.
In early 2010, I predicted price increases on truck tires because of production issues regarding natural rubber, which traded at around $1.42/lb. at the time. About a year later, I wrote another column about weather impacting the price of natural rubber (NR)—and it hit an all-time high of $2.81/lb. just a short time later. Between 2010 and 2011, the price of natural rubber doubled; as a result, every company announced at least one price increase citing the rise in raw material and energy costs. I guess you could say I saw that one coming.
When the subject turns to the topic of taking risks, I’ve never been one that hopes the current saves the ship when the iceberg is clearly in view. In other words, if I always trust my instincts when I think the chances of survival are slim to none given the current course, it always works out in my favor. Of course, I’ll offer my opinion to the captain and encourage others to join me on my way to the lifeboat, but I don’t plan on dying a hero or a fool.
According to Newton’s third law of motion, for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction in the physical world. The same can be said for a lot of events, so the impact of installing wheels with the correct amount of torque can definitely invoke the spirit of the famous scientist. As ridiculous as it seems, it’s not uncommon for the instances of loose wheels to increase after abandoning the “good and tight” school in favor of a program that delivers the correct amount of force every time a fastener is tightened.
While it can be a challenge to know what’s on the mind of real-world truck drivers, a few hours at the recent Mid-America Truck Show in Louisville, KY, proved that their opinions about retreading remain strongly divided. The Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB) sponsored a “Spot the Retread” contest and gave away more than $10,000 in free retreads. Yet despite the rising cost of fuel and tires, there were still a lot of drivers and owner-operators who refused to even consider the option of running retreads.
I recently had the pleasure of addressing a group of risk management people in the trucking industry and during the discussion on tire inflation, Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements generated some serious questions. To begin with, there was some concern about the fact that OSHA defines service as the demounting, mounting, inflating, deflating, installing, removing and handling of tires used on large vehicles like trucks, tractors and buses.
There is no doubt that the tires on the steering axle get the most attention from drivers and maintenance personnel. In many cases, when a tire fails on a drive or trailer position, the driver can still maintain control of the vehicle and guide it to the shoulder without an incident. But the unpredictability of a steer tire failure dictates a higher degree of caution, so decisions regarding tires on the front axle are typically made from a much more conservative standpoint.
On Nov. 13, 1973, the Dept. of Transportation (DOT) established the current testing standard for tires on vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 10,000 lbs. or more. It was intended to ensure that tires were constructed in a manner that could withstand the operational conditions associated with trucks. It also required markings on the sidewall so the user would know the load-carrying capacity as well as other important information.
As part of my day job, I speak at a lot of events on a wide variety of topics. While the content covers practically every aspect of the tire and wheel business, one issue has undoubtedly been the hottest topic over the past few years. Since tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) were mandated by the federal government on all vehicles with a GVWR of less than 10,000 lbs. starting with the 2008 model year, retailers have struggled to some degree to keep up with the operational changes that this technology created.
In December 2008, the California Air Resources Board (CARB) approved regulations to reduce emissions from diesel trucks and buses that operate within the state. Part of the greenhouse gas legislation requires heavy-duty vehicles to use SmartWay-verified low rolling resistance (LRR) tires when operating on California highways, regardless of where they are licensed or registered. This regulation applies to tractors with a GVWR greater than 26,000 lbs. and 53-ft. trailers, including dry van and refrigerated.
Trucking professionals have seen the word “cold” molded on a tire’s sidewalls next to the maximum load and corresponding inflation pressure for decades. It basically means that tire pressures should be checked when air temperatures and tire temperatures are the coolest. During the summer months, when the average low temperature is between 60 and 80 deg. F across most of the country, cold inflation pressures are probably the most consistent throughout a fleet. But in the fall, ambient temperatures can have a much wider spread, which can lead to problems.
If you’re looking for an example of a government agency that performs regular inspections of the workplace, look no further than the Mine Safety and Health Administration, or MSHA. MSHA governs all of the mines in the U.S.—from the local gravel quarry to the mammoth open pit and underground mining operations. When it comes to maintaining or repairing the equipment that operates in these environments, MSHA inspectors always make sure the “lock out, tag out” rule is regularly followed to prevent an accident.
After a decade of helping bang the drum promoting proper torque, it appears the effort has not gone to waste. Most fleets and truck tire service providers fully recognize the importance of tightening fasteners with the correct amount of force. Thousands of torque wrenches have been purchased in the industry, and it looks like they are still being utilized on a daily basis. And in a sign of real progress, many of those wrenches are periodically checked and recalibrated because they are used so often.