It’s well-known that maintaining correct tire pressure improves fuel mileage. But proper pressure can also improve tire life and reduce downtime due to on-road tire failures. Manufacturers are working hard at incorporating the latest technologies into their products to ensure your tires remain properly inflated for the long haul.

While users generally acknowledge the benefits of an onboard tire inflation system, there remains some trepidation about the systems.

“One top concern is how easy it’s going to be to maintain,” says Frank Sonzala, executive vice president at Pressure Systems International (PSI). “The Meritor Tire Inflation System (MTIS) has very low or nonexistent maintenance requirements with only one moving part. Also, the newer hoses on MTIS are designed for easy unscrewing of the hose from the Thru-T with a checkpoint right at that end.”

MTIS by PSI comes with the optional ThermAlert, a device that alerts the driver and/or company of potential problems with an overheated wheel end.

LET THE AIR OUT

“A current issue is whether it’s ever necessary to take air out of a perfectly good tire,” Sonzala continues. “From a safety standpoint, it’s very risky to ever let air out of a tire automatically while the vehicle is moving and tire manufacturers support that view. A patent-pending pressure reduction valve for MTIS adjusts pressures manually and safely when a vehicle is parked overnight.”

According to Sonzala, PSI is planning several innovations next year to improve on a system that features a 0.0067 warranty ratio to sales. In addition to traditional tractor tire monitoring, more and more customers are interested in monitoring their trailer tires as well, according to Jon Intagliata, product manager for Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems at Bendix Commercial Vehicle Systems. With that comes requests for off-board notifications of tire problems, either in real-time or when the truck arrives in the yard, he adds.

“They want to better understand the features and resulting benefits of a tire pressure monitoring system as well as the advantages the Bendix system has over competitive offerings in the market,” Intagliata says. “The SmarTire TPMS system has sensors in the tire that provide direct pressure and temperature measurements. Stem-mounted sensors, on the other hand, cannot provide accurate information on the temperature of the air inside the tire.”

AUTOMATIC CONNECTIONS

Bendix also has a number of new initiatives it is pursuing. “Bendix is in the process of developing a TPMS system specifically for trailers that will automatically connect to tractors equipped with our TPMS and display the data from the trailer in the tractor,” Intagliata says. “Additionally, we are enhancing our SafetyDirect functionality to provide off-board detailed TPMS data to the back office, along with working with various telematics providers to provide off-board reporting of TPMS warnings.”

Continental Tire the Americas knows firsthand what impact underinflation has on the life of a tire.

“In the U.S., it’s estimated the average commercial truck or trailer is operating at approximately 12% below optimal inflation pressure, causing premature wear and failures,” says Alex Chmiel, brand and communications manager of the company’s Commercial Vehicle Tire Business Unit. “Just by maintaining optimal inflation, the average fleet is making tires last longer.”

To address this, the company will introduce Conti- PressureCheck early next year. ContiPressureCheck is “an active system [which] integrates sensors, a communication system, and a data processor into a single module adhered to the tire’s inner surface,” explains D.J. Frye, business development manager. “Sensors continuously monitor air pressure and temperature, avoiding measurement errors due to brake heating and sending data wirelessly to the truck’s electronic control unit. The ECU sends warnings directly to a cab display. The driver can immediately take corrective action.”

COMMUNICATION IS EASY

One of the early makers of automatic tire inflation systems was AiRGO, which produces the T-3 system. “Our customers are asking us to design and implement improved alerting and communications for fleet and driver,” says Bruce Mullen, national sales manager. “The goal is to further reduce unanticipated fleet costs and dangerous conditions from tire damage or loss due to delays in addressing correctable problems. Because some fleet owners rarely if ever ‘see’ their trailers, this capability improves their ‘touch’ with the driver.

“An early warning system will enable fleet management to actively communicate and manage driver actions in a safe and timely fashion dictated by the conditions of the tires and the road to keep the fleet rolling,” he adds.

Improved communication and warning systems are part of AiRGO’s development efforts, Mullen notes. “All are designed to put the fleet managers in the driver’s seat when it comes to keeping the fleet on the road and increasing the bottom line by providing the best, most reliable and easiest to install system on the market. With these improved communication features, our customers will see the value of AiRGO’s T-3 system as unrivaled in the industry.”

THE BOTTOM LINE

The T-3 offers a trouble-free design through a sealed bearing assembly with mechanical seal for long life, the company notes. Features also include cooler running hubs, fast and simple installation and hands-off operation for increased tread life and improved miles per gallon.

The bottom line for fleets is that tire inflation systems can improve tire life, increase miles per gallon through proper tire inflation, and reduce downtime.