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. Since OSHA requires training for every employee who services these tires, drivers who are responsible for inflating their vehicle’s own tires must be trained to recognize the hazards associated with inflation.

Specifically, we were talking about circumferential zipper ruptures on steel cord radial truck tires that are the result of prolonged and/or overloading. Drivers who are unaware of the signs of a zipper rupture could be at serious risk of an injury should one occur during the inflation process, especially when the tire is still installed on the vehicle. They need to know that if the inflation pressure is less than 80% of the recommended pressure, the tire must be removed from the axle, demounted from the rim, inspected for signs of run flat damage, and then inflated in a restraining device (safety cage).

But that turns out to be the tip of the iceberg when it comes to assessing the risk for drivers. OSHA also has specific requirements for truck tire inflation devices that must be in place at all times. Unfortunately, fuel islands at truck stops do not always have the necessary components in place, so drivers are basically committing OSHA violations every time they inflate their tires with non-compliant equipment. It seems like the most common problem is the lack of a clip-on air chuck. By using this device, a driver does not have to physically hold the hose onto the valve stem and stand directly in the trajectory of the sidewall during the inflation process.

I want to make it clear that I am not trying to indict the truck stops that provide free tire inflation hoses for drivers. Clip-on air chucks wear out and must be replaced on a regular basis at high volume locations like fuel islands. In order to continue this service to the industry at no charge, a hand-held air chuck that does not wear out is the most economical solution. And I’ve also heard that many of these same truck stops have issues with theft when OSHA-compliant clip-on air chucks with in-line valves and pressure gauges are installed.

For the truck stop, the solution is simple. All it has to do is remove the free inflation hoses from the fuel islands and direct everyone to the on-site repair or maintenance shop for tire inflation. Since the popularity of this decision won’t be difficult to gauge or estimate, it’s important to recognize that there is a delicate balance between meeting the needs of customers and creating hazards that nobody wants.

And while it’s easy for me to point out the problem, I also have a responsibility to play a role in creating a solution. My motive is always to put the safety of the driver or technician first, so I decided it was time to move the rock that has covered this problem for years. Now, the next step is for the industry to create a training program that will educate drivers on the hazards related to inflating truck tires. This way, they at least know what to look for and how to protect themselves.