MANAGER: Steve Graham
TITLE: Vice president of purchasing
FLEET: Schneider National, Green Bay, WI
OPERATION: A multi-modal carrier with a fleet of 10,500 trucks and 33,300 trailers
One of the ripple effects engendered by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration's Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) program is that trucking companies large and small are now taking a fresh look at how they maintain their equipment, right down to the tires used on both trucks and trailers alike.
This isn't to say that a relationship between maintenance and safety didn't exist before the advent of CSA, stresses Steve Graham, vice president-purchasing for Schneider National. Rather, it means the bond between equipment maintenance and safety is being strengthened like never before.
“Tire maintenance is just as critical as it's always been, just as safety has always been first and foremost in our minds,” Graham says. “So we were doing the right things prior to CSA and will continue to do them.”
Yet the carrier also noted that fleet maintenance now carries a significant amount of weight as one of the seven crucial Behavior Analysis and Safety Improvement Categories (BASICs) that help formulate a trucking company's CSA score: unsafe driving, fatigued driving (hours of service), driver fitness, controlled substances/alcohol, vehicle maintenance, cargo-related and crash indicator.
And tires play a big role in maintenance-related issues, Graham says.
Schneider took several steps earlier this year as CSA went live across the U.S. to beef up tire maintenance efforts. “First, we made a conscious, proactive effort to focus on tire condition and replacement,” Graham says. “This effort crosses many facets of our [trucking] businesses, and drivers will play one of the biggest parts in seeing that we get the job done.”
Those steps included more frequent checks of trailer tires in large trailer pools and company operating centers; removing tires at higher tread depths; replacing trailer tires with Goodyear-branded DuraSeal self-sealing models; and enhancing access to nationwide “tire banks” to ensure faster tire replacement times.
The reason for Schneider's renewed focus on tires is fairly simple: The penalties for tire issues on the CSA score sheet are very high. For example, tires on a truck's front axle at or less than 4/32 in. worth of tread garner an eight-point penalty, as do tires at or less than 2/32 in. on the tandem axles or on the trailer axles. Tires that are flat or even with an audible air leak also receive an eight-point infraction score, as do damaged units sporting separated tread or sidewall material. A tire that's underinflated for the load its hauling gets slapped with a three-point penalty.
By contrast, an “inadequate brake system” or lack of a functioning parking brake rates just a four-point penalty on the CSA scale. Even insufficient thickness of drum rotors and/or pads only garners a four-point penalty under CSA — all examples of why Schneider is reinforcing the importance of proper tire care.
The stiff point penalties for flat tires are another reason why Schneider is buying Goodyear tires that feature DuraSeal technology. Introduced five years ago, Goodyear's DuraSeal technology uses a gel-like, solvent-free compound built into the inner liner of the tire and designed to seal tread punctures of up to ¼ in. in size, though it does not seal sidewall punctures, says Bruce Woodruff, director of marketing for Goodyear. Drivers can continue operating their vehicle after a tire is punctured, and there is no need for repairs until the tire is removed for retreading, he adds.
Woodruff also points out that Goodyear indicates the majority of roadside flats occur in the trailer position as trailers not only tend to more readily “pick up” nails and other debris on the road but also suffer frequent flats when backing up into loading docks.