Tires are a major investment for even the small fleet operator. We know they are costly to replace. Doing everything you can to get long life from tires is key to keeping their cost within reason. And some of the responsibility for long tire life falls squarely on the shoulders of truck drivers.

By law, drivers are required to perform pre and post-trip inspections. These inspections include checking tires for wear by measuring tread depth, looking for uneven tread wear, damage from being cut by debris on the road surface, sidewall scuffing by rubbing curbs which usually occurs on tight turns, flat spots on treads by harsh braking, wear on one side of tread with an axle out of alignment, and the most common cause of premature wear: improper inflation.

 

Don’t Forget to Check Pressure

Under inflation causes a tire or tires to squat on the road service and creates unnecessary premature wear to the outer sides of the tread. Over inflation causes the tire tread sides to contact less road and results in wear to the center of the tread. Both are easily preventable by stressing to drivers that they must check and adjust tire pressures regularly and often.

Inflation concerns are easy to spot in a daily inspection due to the unusual wear patterns observed, but by then it might be too late to keep the tire, especially if it is causing handling issues when driving. Inflation must be monitored closely to ensure long tire life and reduce costs.

Improper inflation also creates heat buildup due to increased friction that if run long enough will result in the tire self-destructing. When this happens you may lose a previously good tire casing to a blowout that destroys the sidewall. And casings are your number one asset in gaining long tire life. If a driver has a flat away from the terminal, the tire must be returned to your shop and set aside for future retreading. Retreadable casings can dramatically extend truck tire life.

 

Mechanical Issues Cause Tire Wear

Other causes for tire wear include worn shock absorbers, worn or loose wheel bearings, a tire or tires out of balance, mismatched tire pairing, mismatched pressures, a brake with a grabbing condition, overloading, or extensive high speed empty running. If your fleet is experiencing any of these conditions, first check tire pressures then look for a mechanical issue as mentioned above.

 

Retreading to Extend Tire Life

Retread heavy truck tires for semi-truck applications generally cost substantially less than brand new tires. Retreads are never used on steer axles due to the unique stressors and wear issues that can cause a retread to lose its tread cap and potentially expose the driver and others to injury.

Retreads are commonly utilized on drive axles and trailer axles and greatly extend tire life. In a simplified explanation the tread of a good casing is cut down to expose fresh rubber and a near perfect circumference, then a new tread cap is bonded onto the casing and the tire is ready for the highway application. Some retreads come with a warranty when purchased. Some casings can be retreaded more than once to generate real cost savings for a fleet or owner operator.

 

Make Tire Inspections a Habit

Whether you believe in using only new tires or are a proponent of retreads, either way you need to constantly monitor tire pressures and wear patterns to properly extend the life of your truck tires. Some fleets opt for commercial tire management programs to handle tire inspection and maintenance. However, everything has its price and it may not be viable for the small fleet or owner operator.

So, keep your drivers on the ball when it comes to tire pressures and wear patterns. Instruct them on habits that cause wear and tear and consider an incentive or reward system for long tire life. Have them bring to maintenance any issues that are unusual with any tire on their rig. Prevention is the key to long tire life. Keep on trucking safely. And treasure those tires. Tire casings are gold.