New Products Can Extend Trailer Tire Life, Save Money

by Katy de Vries

TORONTO, Ont. – Operating a truck is a costly business, so wouldn’t it be great if some of the costs that drain an owner/operator’s wallet and a carrier’s bottom line were eliminated with one simple device?

For example, if a carrier could add 25 per cent extended life to a trailer tire that normally wears out at 70,000 miles, the carrier would get an extra 18,000 miles out of that tire.

At $300 per tire that amounts to a savings of $2,400 on a typical tandem trailer. If the tractor-trailer gets $1 per mile in revenue, that’s an extra $18,000 on the same set of tires before having to invest in new ones.

This is what John Becker, CEO of Georgia-based Trans Technologies Company, was after when he created his invention – the RAC. The RAC stands for rotary air chamber and the device is a tire inflation and deflation system.

“Big rig tires roughly lose a pound and a half of pressure each day and since they are to be run at 100 lbs. pressure, after a week or so the pressure is down to 90 lbs. So the tire wear increases by 10 per cent and fuel consumption goes up 2.9 per cent because the tire is significantly flatter,” said Becker.

The RAC system attaches to the hub of the axle and takes air from the tank on the trailer through a regulator set at a certain pressure, he explained. The air travels through leads that go to each tire.

“Design standards of tire manufacturers say that tires are built for a pressure of 100 lbs, so our system is set so the pressure never goes below 100 and never above 120. We are able to do this because our system is not only an inflation system but also a deflation system,” Becker said.

When a truck travels in warmer temperatures, such as those experienced in the southern U.S., the tire rubber gets very hot and increases the pressure. In response the RAC system will let go of some of the air in the tire to bring it back to 100 lbs, said Becker. But if a truck runs over a nail which ruptures the tire, the system will inflate the tire and maintain the pressure until it is convenient for the driver to fix it, eliminating expensive road calls.

The RAC has been on the road for a year and a half and has travelled over one million miles, Becker said.

Wildcat Transportation of Calgary, Alta., saw significant savings when it installed Oklahoma-based Airgo Systems’ tire inflation system on 50 of its units.

“I was buying at least one trailer tire a week on average,” said Rod Carter, operations manager for Wildcat Transportation. “But after installing Airgo’s system the number of tires I was replacing from normal wear decreased dramatically.”

Airgo’s system has also travelled over one million miles and the system pays for itself with one tire blow out that a driver experiences while on the highway, not to mention the time savings, and customer schedule maintenance, say company officials.

The Airgo system detects a seepage in a trailer tire via a pressure gauge and through a series of check valves, takes air from the pneumatic system and gives it to the tires needing the air while the truck continues to move on down the highway.

This system uses a large diesel and grease resistant air transfer tube that delivers air at 8.3 cubic feet per minute, which is twice the industry average.

“We looked around at other systems and tried some of them out, talked to repair shops and talked to the manufacturers themselves but the Airgo system has been the one for us,” said Carter.

The Airgo system is different from older systems, said Carter, in that it doesn’t steal air pressure from other tires on the truck. So you don’t end up with two tires running at the wrong pressures. Instead, the system takes air from the truck’s reservoir, to maintain operating pressure for all tires.

“It just doesn’t work if you rob Peter to pay Paul,” Carter said. “And the Airgo system corrects this problem.”

Carter runs low profile tires in his fleet and says that Airgo has helped with the efficiency of his operations.

“We’ve had a lot of interest from those who are in need of a system that can withstand the brutal winter conditions drivers face and we have put our system through rigorous testing to be sure that it stands up to extreme temperatures, whether it be in the southern U.S. states or in northern Canada,” said Dale Lane, director of sales for Airgo Systems.

Wildcat drivers travel the continent and see all sorts of weather conditions and Airgo’s system has been through a winter and has stood up to the temperature variety.

“Some other systems use a grease pack instead of an oil pack in them and the grease doesn’t have the flexibility and doesn’t handle the adverse conditions like Airgo’s oil packed system does,” said Carter.

Ruggedness is something that Gerry Van Wachem, president of Advance Engineered Products, was looking for in an inflation system to install on trailer equipment, and we found it in Airgo’s product.

“We definitely research anything that we put on our equipment because we want to make sure it is a good product before we attach our name to it,” said Van Wachem. “Airgo’s system speaks for itself. It is a rugged unit and we have had great success with it.”

Since tires are integral to the rig’s operation, considering devices that will keep air in the tires is a good thing, said Brian Rennie, director of engineering for Bridgestone/Firestone Canada.

The tire is simply a container – it is the air in the tire that supports the vehicle and the load, said Rennie. There are consequences to too little pressure or too much pressure.

Other benefits of running tires at the optimal tire pressure are increased tread wear life, increased traction, increased fuel efficiency and shock absorption to protect the vehicle and cargo and resistance to cutting and impact damage, explains Rennie.

However, said Rennie, although inflation systems offer convenience to fleets, there is one concern with these systems related to human error.

“Typically, these systems generate air pressure using the unit’s air compressor and the compressor must generate sufficient air to re-inflate all tires on the vehicle, but this doesn’t happen suddenly as compressors usually operate more slowly with the tractor engine at idle so more time is necessary for re-inflation suitable for highway speeds,” said Rennie.

“Our concern is that drivers may not wait until tires are re-inflated to the recommended pressure before taking off.”

Many feel that inflation systems will take away the worry of human error.The U.S. Department of Transportation has done some surveys over 10 years and claims that only 11 per cent of drivers ever check their tire pressure, said Becker.

“Drivers don’t seem to want to check air pressure regularly,” said Carter. “So we installed the inflation system to also make it easy for them.”

For more information about optimal tire inflation pressure visit the Tire and Rim Association’s Web site at For details about Airgo Systems, visit For information about the RAC system, visit n

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National cast aluminum hub caps are available in six advanced designs matched to the performance requirements of any heavy-duty wheel-end. Available designs include standard cast aluminum oil caps; standard cast aluminum oil caps with side fill plugs; cast aluminum grease caps; cast aluminum Hubodometer Hubo-mounting caps; PSI grease caps; and PSI oil caps. Federal-Mogul continues to offer a variety of chrome-plated steel caps and polycarbonate threaded caps for trucks and trailers.

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