As a fleet operator you might not have control over the rising costs of diesel fuel and truck tires, but you can improve your fuel economy and make those tires run longer simply by keeping them properly inflated. There are a number of tire monitoring and automatic inflation systems on the market today for both truck and trailer applications.

Jim Beverly, chief engineer, Dana Commercial Vehicle Systems, says: “When trailer tires are properly inflated, a typical fleet can generate savings in excess of $1,000 per year due to fuel economy improvements, extended tread life, increased up-time and the avoidance of costs associated with tire blowouts.”

Beverly adds that a study conducted by TMC noted that tires under-inflated by as little as 10% could cause fuel degradation penalties of approximately 0.5%. The same report showed that tread life may be shortened by as much as 16%.“ Because of statistics like these, the industry is taking more and more notice of the investment benefits in the correct tire inflation monitor system,” he points out.

Dana CVS makes and markets the Dana Spicer Tire Inflation and Monitor System (TIMS) through Roadranger Marketing. TIMS, Beverly explains, is unique in that it notifies vehicle operators when tire pressure falls below a pre-determined level. “This allows the customer to set a specific threshold where corrective measures will need to be made.” He notes that unlike competitive systems, TIMS' seals and lines are non-pressurized when not inflating tires to reduce seal wear and premature failures.

Jon Intagliata, product manager for Dana CVS, says his company “is always exploring new technologies to improve our lineup of tire inflation systems. Recently, we improved the robustness of our systems with the introduction of a new wire harness and a new pneumatic controller assembly.” The new harness provides increased environmental protection through the use of over-molded connectors, while the injection-molded controller offers improved corrosion resistance and an integral electrical solenoid connector.

“This year we also announced the launch of the SmartWave TPMS tire pressure monitoring system,” Intagliata advises. “This alternative provides real-time tire pressure monitoring, enabling the system to work on the road, not just when passing through a stationary gate-reader or when someone is using a hand-held device. The SmartWave TPMS system can also communicate to off-board communications systems, sending important real-time pressure and temperature data to provide proactive maintenance scheduling as required.”

ArvinMeritor's Barry Eckel, director-global sales and marketing, MTIS (Meritor Tire Inflation System), says, “More than 80% of fleet tire problems are caused by under-inflation. Improper tire pressure leads to irregular wear, premature tire removal, and increased tire costs.”

Problems associated with under-inflated tires that Eckel points to include an increase in the frequency of tire punctures as tire casings get hotter and soften. Also under-inflated tires are much more susceptible to permanent casing damage and blowouts, thus reducing the opportunity to retread them.

Unlike some tire management options, which simply monitor tire pressure, the Meritor Tire Inflation System (MTIS) by P.S.I. (Pressure Systems International), Eckel reports, is a fully automatic tire inflation system designed to keep leaking trailer tires operating at a specified pressure until repairs can be made. “MTIS by P.S.I. leads to a significant reduction in en-route tire failures, keeping truck and driver utilization higher.”

Earlier this year, Eckel says, the company introduced a new option to MTIS. The Meritor ThermALERT patented wheel-end heat sensor unit helps alert drivers to stop for repairs before serious damage can occur due to elevated wheel-end temperatures.

Last October in San Antonio, TX, Frank Sonzala, executive vp, and Al Cohn, director of new market development and engineering support at PSI, presented the features of MTIS with the new ThermALERT wheel-end heat sensing technology at the annual Fleet Technology event hosted by ArvinMeritor and PSI.

Another trailer tire inflation system called CTIS (constant tire inflation system) is available from Airgo Systems. It's designed for use with all commercial long-haul trailers, including tankers, intermodals, reefers, dry vans and specialty trailers. CTIS, the company explains, not only monitors tire pressure, but also automatically inflates leaking tires via the trailer's existing air supply while the vehicle is in motion.

Airgo points out that increased safety is one of the underlying benefits of maintaining air pressure. When a tire is damaged, both the driver and cargo are at risk. According to NHTSA, over 10,000 injuries per year could be prevented if all vehicles were equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems.

Matt Wilson, business unit manager at Hendrickson International, says tire maintenance costs will be lower when trailers are outfitted with Hendrickson's TIREMAXX tire inflation system. “TIREMAXX can prevent blowouts by maintaining tire pressure at a safe level until the tire can be repaired. A significant cost savings is realized every time a tire replacement is avoided.”

He adds that Hendrickson has released several improvements to the TIREMAXX system in the last 12 months. All changes to the product were developed to “enhance the durability of an already successful, field-proven design.”

To reduce the occurrence of under-inflated truck tires, a company called Vehicle Inspection Systems manufactures a nitrogen inflation system called VIS-Nitro. Under-inflation, the manufacturer says, is the leading cause of premature tire wear.

Steve Motta, business development manager, says that VIS-Nitro inflates tires with nitrogen rather than air to maintain tire pressure longer. He notes the system automates the inflation of four tires at once to within 0.3 psi. Technicians simply clip the four chucks on and set the desired pressure. The machine beeps when nitrogen inflation is complete. The system also has an automated purge cycle that vents air from within an inflated tire and replaces it with high purity nitrogen produced by VIS-Nitro.

Safer Corp.'s Vigia tire pressure inflation system is designed for use on solid-axle vehicles, including trucks, buses and certain trailers, such as lowboys. The Vigia Tire Guardian, the company explains, is easily and inexpensively installed on most non-hollow-axle vehicles. Fleet owners calibrate their vehicles' tires to a predetermined pressure, and when Vigia detects even a slight leak, drivers are alerted to the axle location and severity of the leak.

The Vigia Tire Guardian has two safety valves built in to instantly shut the system down in the event of a catastrophic loss of air in the tires. It does this so as not to interfere with the vehicle's pneumatic system for brakes and/or suspension, the manufacturer explains. In this unlikely occurrence, the driver is alerted with a series of red LEDs.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEB SITES:

Airgo Systems
www.tireinflation.com

ArvinMeritor
www.arvinmeritor.com

Dana Corp.
www.roadranger.com

Hendrickson
www.hendrickson-intl.com

Pressure Systems Int'l. (PSI)
www.psi-atis.com

Reinke Co.
www.pressureguard.com

Safer Corp.
www.saferco.com

SmarTire Systems
www.smartire.com

Stemco
www.stemco.com

Vehicle Inspection Systems
www.visnitro.com