Kevin Rohlwing

Vital component 

If you ask 50 tire experts to name the most important part of a tubeless radial truck tire assembly, you will probably get a number of different answers. Some will point to different aspects of design or materials in the single-piece rim because that eliminated side and lock rings thereby saving the lives of technicians who serviced the assemblies. Others might focus on the 15-deg. bead taper of the tire or advances related to innerliner technology that resulted in the dominance of tubeless tires in the market.

Tire registration and recalls 

With recent passage of the Fixing America’s Surface Transportation (FAST) Act, tire manufacturers were successful in their efforts to switch the tire registration system from voluntary to mandatory. Under the current version of 49 CFR Part 574—Tire Identification and Recordkeeping, the seller of a tire(s) is required to provide the purchaser or lessor with the tire identification number(s), or TIN, so the purchaser or lessor can register the tire(s) with the manufacturer.

Political rubber 

With presidential primaries on the horizon and every form of media reporting on the candidates, many people have politics on the mind. Before too long, lawn signs and car stickers will be out in force because supporters can exercise their right to free speech in an election. What should be a celebration of democracy has turned into the world’s most popular reality television show.

SmartWay is no guarantee 

Pop culture junkies like myself are obsessed with movie quotes. I can recite thousands of classic movie lines and scenes word for word, including most of Caddyshack. Another personal favorite is Tommy Boy, which starred the late, great Chris Farley. There is a particular scene in the movie where Tommy Callahan (Farley’s character) discusses the merits of putting the guarantee on a box of brake pads. He basically said you can put a piece of junk in a box and mark it guaranteed because all you are getting is a guaranteed piece of junk.

Lower prices, higher costs 

Years ago, a research firm conducted a study of passenger- and light-truck tire buyers and determined that consumers fell into one of three categories: brand, price or service. Brand buyers were obviously loyal to the name on the sidewall, while the only loyalty of price buyers was to the cheapest option. Service buyers basically took the recommendation of their mechanic, so brand and price were secondary. Regardless of the motive behind the purchasing decision, the influx of low-cost offshore tires has made an impact on the industry.

Of deserts and dandelions 

When natural rubber prices reached a 30-year high of $2.80/lb. in February 2011, tire manufacturers responded with an unprecedented string of price increases. Since most of the world’s supply is located in Southeast Asia, doomsday theorists predicted shortages that would remind people of the rationing that took place during World War II. Fortunately, a number of factors have stabilized the market, and natural rubber prices have leveled off.

Putting techs at risk 

Driver attitudes towards emergency road service have definitely changed since the introduction of Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA). In the past, most operators would limp to the next truck stop or rest area so they could get some time in the sleeper while they waited for the technician to fix the tire(s). But it seems like the increased attention on vehicle maintenance by enforcement officials has caused drivers to just pull over whenever they become aware of a tire problem.

Wheel-world problems 

Finding the inspiration for a monthly column can sometimes be a difficult task.  There are only so many things you can write about in the field of tires and wheels, which means coming up with an interesting and original topic each month becomes next to impossible as time goes on. With each issue, it’s my goal to inform and educate so readers are prepared to make better decisions that save money and, most importantly, improve safety. 

Feeling the need for speed 

When the National Maximum Speed Law was passed in 1974 as part of the Emergency Highway Energy Conservation Act, the primary purpose of the national 55 mph speed limit was to reduce gasoline consumption. By the late 1980s, Congress had raised the maximum speed limit to 65 mph and in 1995, the authority for establishing speed limits was returned to each individual state. Since then, maximum highway speeds have ranged from 55 to 85 mph.

Pay attention to trajectory 

A couple of years ago, I was involved in a hearing conducted by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) pertaining to a fatality related to tire and wheel service. The deceased was an experienced tire technician who, for some unknown reason, attempted to correct the seating of multi-piece rim components while the tire was still inflated. His actions were in violation of OSHA regulations—and it cost him his life.

Finding the right cure 

If you are a regular reader of this column, then you undoubtedly know that I am a strong proponent of retreading. The technology and uniformity that goes into producing a modern retread is unparalleled in the history of tires—and it’s only going to keep improving. Despite the persistence from old-school trucking professionals that retreads are the cause of tire debris on the highways, the data proves that they are just as durable as their new-tire counterparts.

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