A milk run like no other

Truck News

ST. JOHN’S, Nfld. – The parochial joke, “If you don’t like the weather in (insert place name here), wait a minute,” just doesn’t wash in Newfoundland. Even Newfoundlanders don’t have much affection for the weather on this island.

Those hurricanes that whip across the Caribbean and east coast of the United States each fall?

Newfoundland is often their last brush with hard ground before they swirl out to the North Atlantic.

Winter brings heavy snowfall, and freezing rain in the spring can leave jackets of ice on power lines, trees, and pavement.

Weather is a constant companion on the long, lonely drive across the island. It’s 430 miles of twists and turns from St. John’s, the largest city on Newfoundland at its eastern tip to Corner Brook, on the island’s west side. Newfoundland is the fifteenth largest island in the world, yet at no point are you more than 60 miles from the ocean. Its elevations range from sea level to 2,600 feet, with few physical barriers to protect you from the winds that pick up their chill from the water.

“The paved roads can be icy, snow-packed, and bare and wet all in one trip,” says Scott Johnson, general manager of Reliant Transport, which hauls milk from dairy farms to a processing plant in St. John’s.

And for Reliant, a trip is a long haul. Reliant’s four tractor-trailer units operate around the clock, making the long trek to farms on the island’s west side every other day and hauling milk back to the plant for processing. Most routes are 750 to 950 miles back and forth, with a switch of drivers midway. The company logs the annual mileage of a long-haul carrier – each truck will cover 175,000 miles a year – but also the scheduling demands of a pick-up-and-delivery operation and the traction needs of an on/off-highway hauler.

The job is made more challenging by the fickle weather and isolation on the roads.

“In the dairy business, the supply chain is tightly regulated for quality control,” Johnson says. “If we’re down because one of our trucks is stuck or has a flat, we may lose the load. Remember, too, that we’re dealing with a mobile product – milk will slosh around inside the trailer, and on hills or slippery roads, it’s not always a comfortable feeling. Our tire choice is really important. We need tires that are reliable and give our drivers a good, sure feel for the road, whether that’s pavement, gravel, dirt, mud or snow.”

Johnson has used Goodyear tires for 20 years. He works with Glenn Kean of City Tire & Auto Centre, a Goodyear tire distributor that serves Newfoundland and Labrador, to find the right combination of traction and tread life for Reliant’s tractor-trailer units.

Johnson specifies Goodyear’s Unisteel G395 LHS line-haul steer tire for stability. As the original grooves on the G395 LHS wear down, they expose jagged, angled walls across the footprint to maximize grip and handling. Also, the tire’s barrel-shaped footprint puts more tread on the ground for better traction.

“The steer tires give the driver a sense of stability that he’s seeking on a slippery surface,” says Kean. The steer tire receives tremendous forces laterally, because every time the driver turns the wheel, the truck’s drive axles continue pushing straight ahead, he explains. A pressure-distribution groove on the outer edge of the G395 LHS reduces pressure build-up on the outside ribs of the tire, so the shoulder doesn’t wear as quickly.

In the winter, Reliant’s drive tires are Goodyear retreads with a Winter Track tread patterned after Goodyear’s G143 design. It’s a deep, aggressive tread for winter highway driving.

“We’ve tried lots of options, but this Winter Track tread works best for our tractors in the winter,” Johnson says. “I know a less aggressive tread would give us better mileage; we basically go season to season on these. But in the snow and mud, our priorities are traction and preserving casing life, not trying to get an extra 15,000 miles out of the tire.”

Reliant’s tridem tank trailers wear Goodyear’s G314s for similar reasons. “It’s a reliable, regular-wearing trailer tire,” Kean explains. “The tread is nice and flat, which puts more rubber on the ground for traction, and its center groove is big and wide enough to channel water, mud, and snow through the footprint. It’s a good choice.”

Johnson trusts Kean to make those selections.

“We have very little need for service calls on the road,” Johnson says, “because Glenn helps us make the right tire choices for the road conditions. He knows the roads here. He knows what tires are going to work best for our trucks and drivers and he keeps us on a routine service schedule so we’re not having to make emergency road calls.”

Tires are inspected every 90 days. Kean collects and analyzes information about tread depths and other conditions and looks for any trends or concerns.

With the trucks constantly on the move, Reliant can’t bring them to one location for inspection and service. City Tire has seven locations on Newfoundland, including Truckwise Tire Centers in Mount Pearl on the east coast, Corner Brook on the west coast, and Grand Falls-Windsor, halfway between the two. City Tire also operates a Goodyear-authorized retread facility in Mount Pearl.

When the trucks need service, Johnson can schedule a time and location that’s best for the company.

“Those folks,” says Johnson, “ought to come to Newfoundland.”

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