Michelin Brings Wide-Base X One Tour to Canada

by Ingrid Phaneuf

TORONTO, Ont. – Michelin wound up its 2004 summer tour promoting its wide-base X One tires, originally introduced at the Great American Truck Show in 2000, with two stops in Canada this fall. This after spending an entire summer making several stops through large and small towns in the U.S.

Why? Because Canadian provinces are still leery about allowing the widespread use of wide-base tires.

The reluctance of Canadian provinces to allow more widespread use of the tires, without a special permit, was behind Michelin’s decision to bring its tour to Ontario and Quebec.

“This part of the tour is educational,” said Michelin’s Canadian truck tire product line manager Ralph Beaveridge, to an Oct. 5 Toronto audience that included officials from the Ministry of Transport of Ontario as well as the Ontario Trucking Association and several journalists.

Beaveridge pointed out that while several U.S. states have already allowed for the use of the new wide-base tires, Canadian provinces have yet to be convinced of their benefits.

“Much of their reluctance is related to fears of road damage,” said Beaveridge.

Michelin is hoping to allay the fears of the provinces by providing data that will prove new wide base tire technology is no more damaging than the duals wide-base tires aim to replace.

But convincing provincial transport and infrastructure officials hasn’t been easy.

“So far we’ve provided data from a study we commissioned from the Virginia Institute of Technology in the U.S., as well as a study commissioned by the Quebec government and conducted by the civil engineering department at Laval University, but there are still problems,” said Beaveridge.

Studies have shown so far that the new singles cause less surface damage to asphalt surfaces, Beaveridge said.

But claims have been made that the new single tires cause more damage to road substructures, or under certain weather conditions.

Michelin is hoping that provincial officials will eventually figure out that the benefits outweigh the damage – especially seeing as the reduction of surface damage will in the end balance out against what Michelin officials call an extremely minimal amount of damage to the substructure as compared to the damage caused by duals.

That said, other arguments thrown up against the widespread use of the new singles are easily countered.

Claims that inspectors won’t be able to tell the difference between the new singles and the old ones are ridiculous, said Ralph Culbertson, a test driver for Michelin, who drove the Michelin X One equipped truck up from North Carolina for the Canadian event.

“They can tell easily,” said Ralph Culbertson. Culbertson was one of the drivers who offered a road test with and without the X Ones, at Downsview Park just north of Toronto. The other was Robert Tinsley, also a pro with Michelin.

The ride and drive was conducted in two Freightliner Century Class S/Ts, one fitted with Michelin duals and the other fitted with Michelin X Ones.

Changing lanes at 35 mph, you could definitely feel the difference. Stability and traction were clearly superior with the X Ones. There was almost no wiggling with the X Ones, not to mention that you definitely felt the bump in the road less.

“Once drivers try these out they don’t want to go back,” said Culbertson.

Clearly Culbertson and Tinsley believed in their product, even to the point of later vying (over lunch) for who would get to drive the X One equipped truck back to Carolina.

As for fleets, they’re equally pleased with the performance of X Ones, and Michelin has the customer testimonials to prove it, it says. Fleets are claiming an average four per cent in fuel savings, savings of up to 200 lbs. per axle, and lower maintenance costs.

Many of the improvements on traditional singles can be attributed to Michelin’s Infini-Coil technology – a 1/4 mile of steel cable lining each X One tire. The coil strengthens and stiffens the tire innards, reducing penetration and crowning of the tire under load.

Reduced crowning means more even wear and easier retreading. It also means a wider footprint, which equals better traction and better fuel mileage.

The specially developed rubber compounds used to make the tire also reduce roll resistance, which makes for further fuel savings.

Not to mention the basic principle of singles versus duals, that two wheels roll faster and more easily together than four.

As for stability, the math behind the X One’s increase in stability is simple – the further apart the wheel walls are the more weight falls mid track, increasing the stability of the vehicle.

As for time savings – besides the obvious advantage of only having to replace one flat instead of two – it’s also easier to check up on a single tire than a dual, given that getting to inside duals is harder and more labour intensive And of course it’s easier to maintain the same pressure in two tires as one.

As for a sudden blow out – the worst case scenario often cited with regards to singles – tests have shown there is no adverse change in handling or stability when Michelin X Ones are blown out, as compared to duals Michelin says.

Given all the apparent benefits of equipping your truck with the new singles, you’d expect provincial governments to be quick to jump on board.

But apparently the jury is still out.

“If it was just a question of the road side inspectors not being able to recognize the tires, we’d just paint the walls white,” Beaveridge said.

Bottom line – the widespread use of wide base tires will entirely depend on the ability of provinces to maintain Canada’s failing road network.

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