Truck News


Corrosion Costs…More Than You Think

TORONTO, Ont. - Corrosion costs the transportation industry an astounding U.S. $23.4 billion a year, with 87 per cent of fleets experiencing premature failure of truck components, according to a TMC survey.

CHIPPING AWAY: A combination of factors can lead to corrosion.
CHIPPING AWAY: A combination of factors can lead to corrosion.

TORONTO, Ont. – Corrosion costs the transportation industry an astounding U.S. $23.4 billion a year, with 87 per cent of fleets experiencing premature failure of truck components, according to a TMC survey.

So pervasive is the problem that the Technology and Maintenance Council’s survey found the same percentage of fleets are also willing to pay extra for corrosion protection, according to Vic Suski, of V&P Associates.

Suski, who also does work for the American Trucking Associations (ATA), discussed corrosion prevention at the 2004 annual TMC conference held at the Toronto Congress Centre this fall.

“There is some bad stuff out on the roadsides and in the bodies of water that affect our equipment on the roads,” Suski said.

And their effect isn’t just financial, he added.

“Sixty-six per cent of drivers surveyed say they experienced some kind of malady – a skin or respiratory irritation when salt solutions go airborne,” Suski said.

The corrosion plague is not purely a vehicle problem, he added.

It affects the infrastructure as well – mainly highway guard rails, bridges and concrete.

Of course, some areas get hit harder than others.

North Eastern U.S. and South Eastern Canada around the Great Lakes tend to have the highest pH levels, due to acid rain and salt solution on the highways, Suski said.

Particularly problematic for the industry is that trucks often travel through several different climates and over an assortment of chemicals applied to roadway infrastructures, he said.

In contrast, four-wheel manufacturers don’t share the severity of this problem because generally their automobiles stay local and usually come into contact with only one type of chemical.

Of all the chemicals encountered, magnesium chloride is the worst for trucks, Suski said.

“It’s like gum on the bottom of your shoe; it eats away six times faster than calcium chloride and once it is on the equipment it stays put, holding onto moisture and continuing to be active for a long time,” he said.

Chemical manufacturers need to be encouraged to design cheaper and more benign chemicals for North American roadways, Suski said.

The University of Idaho’s Winter Roads Project, sponsored by the ATA and the National Institute for Advanced Transportation Technology, is looking at the corrosion issue.

“We are researching chemicals and inhibitors on the roadways for de-icing and anti-icing purposes, developing guidelines for industry and the government that will help deal with corrosion problems, while evaluating environmental impacts of using these chemicals,” said David Alexander, project manager for Winter Roads Management Project.

After sending surveys to transportation departments in several states, Alexander found sodium chloride was most widely used on roads followed by calcium chloride, which is the more expensive chemical of the two.

Many states are moving towards using liquid chemicals for de-icing roads, to reduce the impact on air quality. Particulate matter is left in the air from the use of abrasives – salt and sand – said Alexander.

“Animals are also attracted to road salt, so we are collecting data around this matter and we are also watching the water quality and winter run off,” Alexander said.

Alexander visited Paccar to learn about its corrosion protection practices. He also spoke to fleet maintenance personnel and drivers to document what type of corrosion problems they were experiencing and where they were travelling.

But there are so many compounding effects it is difficult to identify leading causes of corrosion, said Alexander.

Corrosion is highly dependent on maintenance practices, weather conditions and the environment, all of which can vary widely.

“There is no one standard that addresses all factors because of the complexity of the issue and it is difficult to get a standard that can mirror exactly what’s going on out on the roads,” said Alexander.

Another component Alexander plans to look at is whether or not joint integrity is compromised when loading a truck in a corrosive environment.

Gary O’Brien, sales representative industrial products division for TCS Coatings Inc., also spends his time assessing corrosion problems in the trucking industry.

“We began a study eight years ago that looks at primary reasons that coated assets fail prematurely on roadways in Canada,” said O’Brien.

Electronic coating is a painting process that gives the equipment a uniform coating.

Lead has been taken out of the solution for environmental reasons, however, which means the corrosion resistance has also been eliminated, said O’Brien.

“It worked well 10 years ago but it just doesn’t have the ability to stand up anymore. After testing, e-coated parts were completely gone and metal treated parts were as good as day one,” O’Brien said.

It’s now become a battle between metallurgy and painting.

“There is a whole new generation of coatings that are impervious to water and actually become part of the steel. It’s like the metal grew a skin from the inside out instead of the outside in.”

Coatings have to be as impervious to water as possible and the ones tested in O’Brien’s study soaked up water like a sponge, he said.

Poor chip resistance, salt, heat and water absorption together result in a painted piece of equipment that will fail and give way to corrosion, according to O’Brien.

“If a chassis cracks and chalks, it loses its surface integrity and ultra violet resistance as well,” he said.

If the steel wasn’t cleaned properly or if there was a greasy film on the equipment prior to painting, the coating product won’t adhere to it, which leaves room for cracking or chipping, he added.

There is still a lot of work to be done on this subject, Suski acknowledged.

“There are technologies out there that will resolve these dilemmas and products that will last for a long time, but overall, there is still more research that needs to be done,” he said.

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