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Wednesday, March 13, 2013

The Drudgery of Tire Maintenance
Good article thanks to Jim Park and his On the Road blog. Link to their site below:

Tires are getting ridiculously expensive, and downtime is as damaging and costly as it ever was. So, I've long wondered why fleets and drivers aren't more proactive in looking after their tires. I think I now have the answer.
I've got my tire-guy hat strapped on for this one, as you may have guessed. The tire feature in the March '13 issue of Heavy Duty Trucking is about preventing flat tires -- or more precisely, preventing slowly deflating tires from turning into large chunks of rubber strewn all over the freeway.
We know that most tire failures are due in some part to neglect. According to Curtis Decker, manager of product development at Continental Tire, not checking tire pressure frequently enough leads to about 80 percent of the blowout failures whose results we see scattered across highways every day. Almost all of those blowouts could have been prevented.
We also know that almost every truck on the road will experience at least one flat tire, on average, every year. So it's not as if flat tires are a rarity. Yet, combined with the knowledge that diligent maintenance could save thousands of tires and countless dollars and wasted hours every year, very few fleets and owner-operators invest in proactive tire maintenance.
The question of why fleets and drivers don't do a better job of maintaining tire pressure has plagued me since I began writing my regular tire column more than five years ago. The technology exists to monitor tire inflation, and even to top up leaky tires. It's not expensive relative to the cost of a tire-related breakdown or service failure, and it requires almost no time or effort from drivers or maintenance staff. Yet, vendors of such technology will tell you it's not exactly flying off the shelves.
But I think I now understand why. While interviewing Decker for the March column, he offered a very insightful explanation of how human nature gets in the way of better tire maintenance.
"I think the big reason we see this happening is the human propensity to be reactive rather than proactive," he says.
The brief narrative that follows is Decker's reasoning, minus the clutter of quotation marks and the associated attributions.

"People look at maintaining their tires and the feel the immediate cost of time. We constantly remind drivers that thumping tires is an inadequate way of checking tire pressure. Instead, we expect the driver to take an inflation gauge and check 10 or 18 tires, and then to decide whether a tire needs a top up: What's the recommended pressure for this application? What's my fleet's recommended pressure? Depending on the outcome of the pressure check, we then expect the driver to find an air supply and spend another 30 minutes bringing those tires up to recommended pressure.

All of that comes at a time cost to the driver, and with all the other demands on their time, it's easy to understand why they'll put off doing something they might perceive as out of line with the possible risk. They are weighing the time cost of not doing weekly or even monthly pressure checks against the odds of a tire suffering an inflation related failure.
That whole exercise is front-loaded and proactive, but humans tend to be reactive. Here's where we get into conflict. If you're looking at the up-front cost of a tire pressure monitoring system [or an automatic tire inflation system], all of a sudden that becomes real money that you see leaving your wallet. It's hard to extrapolate that across of 12, 18, 24 or more months of avoided downtime. If a tire goes, you feel that hurt immediately. It's an in-your-face, painful experience.

But within two weeks of a failure, most of us are back weighing that cost against the risk of putting off pressure checks again because the pain soon goes away.
The other side of the coin, when you pay upfront for a preventive type of system, is that there is certainty to that expense. As manufacturers, it's our job to convince you to make that $10 investment today so you'll save $100 tomorrow."
Back to Park again. I'll be the first to admit that I find checking tire pressure a colossal pain in the neck. It's dirty and thankless work, and drivers don't have the 30 minutes to spend checking pressure when the HOS or EOBR clock is ticking. I also believe it's wrong for fleets to expect drivers to do that work unpaid. If you want to impress your drivers, invest in a TMPS or automatic inflation system. They will save you both a ton of time and money in the long run.
Sounds like a good recruiting tool to me.


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