When I first started teaching, I used to tell my students that one of my major goals was to live in a year without a fatal accident related to the servicing of tires. Maybe it was youth or maybe it was just plain optimism. Regardless, it has yet to happen in the 12-plus years that I've been speaking and writing about proper safety procedures.
Before I put the other foot on my soapbox, I want to clarify the statement of “fatal accident(s) related to the servicing of tires.” It's not just the technician who's in harm's way, it's also the driver and everyone else sharing the road. Lives are at stake every time an inflated tire is installed on a truck, so you would think this task would be reserved for the best of the best. After all, when it comes to human life, it's difficult to imagine any company that would knowingly put their employees and/or the public at risk because the individual responsible for everyone's safety was never formally trained.
I used to promise every prospective truck tire technician that when it rained he would get wet, when it was hot he would sweat, and when it was cold he would wish it was warm. Commercial tire and wheel service is back-breaking work that happens in every imaginable weather and jobsite condition. But it's not rocket science and most people with some mechanical aptitude can pick it up and become proficient in a short period of time just by watching. As a result, on-the-job training continues to be the norm, so we continue to experience what I consider preventable deaths.
When a standard tubeless truck tire is inflated to 100 psi, the force of the pressure is more than enough to launch and subsequently kill a human being. In the old days, stories of technicians getting their heads blown off by split rims were usually enough to gain the respect of new hires. But tubeless tires are deceptively safe because there are no components that may dislodge and decapitate. So the new breed of technician who is unaware of zipper ruptures or heat damage to disc wheels usually has a can of ether to complete the suicide trifecta that some old-timer taught him. He just doesn't know any better.
As I said earlier, the life that is at stake also extends to the driver of the vehicle and everyone else on the road. When a fully inflated 200-lb. truck tire becomes loose, anything in its path will likely be destroyed until it comes to a stop. I've seen photos of vehicles struck by inflated tires and the best way I can describe the aftermath is to imagine stepping on a soda can (except it's a car). Once again, the new breed coats the threads with anti-seize and never uses a torque wrench because the old-timer told him that's the way it's done.
This perpetuation of bad habits is costing lives in the shop and on the highway. Unqualified technicians are sent out to service tires they have no business servicing because they are unaware of the risks and proper procedures. Since these technicians are improperly installing wheels with the incorrect torque, they are a danger to themselves and to society. It's not their fault. Nobody ever took the time to explain why an inflated truck tire can be extremely dangerous if it has been damaged, mounted on a damaged rim, or improperly installed. I know several families that wish their loved one or the technician would have known.