Truck News


Inflating revenue through tire pressure monitoring

KANANASKIS, Alta. - Although it's an old technology that pre-dates the invention of the truck, the tire is a technology under constant change. Aside from all the compounds and materials that make up t...

KANANASKIS, Alta. – Although it’s an old technology that pre-dates the invention of the truck, the tire is a technology under constant change. Aside from all the compounds and materials that make up the actual tire, it really is what’s on the inside that counts because a flat tire doesn’t do anybody any good.

With the advancement of technology, the long-standing tradition of whacking a tire with a hammer to measure its pressure may become as common as wooden wheels.

The Canadian Transportation Equipment Association enrolled a few experts on the emerging technology of tire inflation systems to speak at the association’s 43rd manufacturer’s conference in Kananaskis, Alta. Oct. 23-25.

Osmosis is the most common source of tire pressure loss, as tires lose about 1 to 2 PSI per month. While tire pressure is also lost through punctures, sidewall damage and leaking valves.

“Tires are the number one maintenance and cost issue for fleets,” said Robert Pontious, regional sales manager with Pressure Systems International. “The automatic tire inflation system keeps pressure on the tires and keeps them inflated all the time.”

A little more than a decade ago, tire inflation systems were fairly complex, noted Pontious – even the control box was complex. Today most companies are pretty standard in how the systems are set up. One configuration for tire inflation systems is to run the tubing through the axles and out to the wheel ends, to reduce exposed tubing.

In most systems a warning light will go on to let the driver know if there is a problem with one of the tires or the system.

“Tire inflation systems increase the life of tires, maximize casing value and reduce fuel costs,” added Pontious.

Although today tire inflation systems are a convenient option to monitor and maintain tire pressure, Daylen Borders, an application engineer with Stemco, insists it is only a matter of time before they become mandatory due to the TREAD Act.

The Transportation Recall Enhancement Accountability and Documentation Act was enacted in the fall of 2000, which in part requires passenger cars to be equipped with tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS). By August 2007, 100% of vehicles from manufacturers will have to be equipped with TPMS.

“It only applies to passenger vehicles at this point,” explained Borders. “The NHTSA is currently reviewing how the TREAD Act can be implemented in the commercial vehicle market.”

Some technology developed is designed simply to monitor tire pressure, but it will be up to the driver to take the necessary steps to inflate the tire. Borders noted that the main features of a monitoring system will minimize labour for checking and repairing tires; accurate, efficient mileage data collection; fuel economy tracking; adaptability to both tractor and trailer; and quick payback.

“What good is it if we take one maintenance payback for another?” he asked. “The savings on tire wear and fuel will make up nearly 50% of return on investment over 12 months.”

But not all applications are suited to run fully inflated tires all the time.

“There are tire monitor systems and tire maintenance systems and the last system will help take air out of the tires,” explained Randy Billian, an engineer with Dana Canada’s axle plant.

There are commercial tire inflation systems from OEMs that can inflate and deflate tires depending on a truck’s application.

“Deflated tires can provide enhanced mobility, reduced road and environment costs. With enhanced mobility it gives you a longer track,” said Billian. “Tires are designed to run down the highway at maximum speed with maximum pressure and maximum load. When you go off-road you need to downsize pressure. It provides reduced road costs and environmental impact. Roads can be built with less aggregate thickness. It will reduce the ruts in the road.”

The system checks tires at regular intervals and adjusts pressure as needed. Pressures are corrected for varying temperatures and altitudes. There is also notification for the operator in the cab, when the system is engaged.

“The pressure switches give priority to air brakes to ensure there is always enough air to stop the vehicle,” added Billian.

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