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Tire pressure systems deliver fuel savings, extend tire life: US research

TAMPA, Fla. -- A two-year US research program has concluded that systems which monitor or maintain tire pressures can deliver better fuel economy and longer tread life, and in some cases pay for themselves in as little as a year.


TAMPA, Fla. — A two-year US research program has concluded that systems which monitor or maintain tire pressures can deliver better fuel economy and longer tread life, and in some cases pay for themselves in as little as a year.

“We saw an increase of 1.4% in fuel economy, which is a big deal,” said Chris Flanigan of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration’s (FMCSA’s) Office of Analysis, Research and Technology, which was responsible for the Tire Pressure Monitoring Field Operational Test Results. “These systems can provide a real quick turnaround on fuel savings alone.”

Official results of the FMCSA’s work will not be released for a few months, but an audience at the annual general meeting of the Technology and Maintenance Council was given a sneak peak.

The report will certainly offer a valuable testimonial for companies that provide automatic tire inflation systems and tire pressure monitoring systems, which are currently mounted on a mere five per cent of the equipment rolling down US highways.

There is little secret that tires are rarely inflated to the proper pressures. An earlier FMCSA study showed that only 28% of tires are inflated to proper pressures, and 34% are within 5 psi of the right levels. One in every 14 tires was underinflated by at least 20 psi. But systems like those tested in the latest study can help to spot these issues or even top up the air in the tires.

The research itself involved two test fleets – Sheetz, a Pennsylvania tanker operation that runs on wide-base single tires; and GFS (Gordon Food Service), a Michigan fleet that had traditionally struggled with curb-related tire damage.

The tested equipment included the Meritor Tire Inflation System by PSI, the wheel-mounted Tire-SafeGuard Monitoring System, and the Integrated Vehicle Tire Monitoring System which is mounted on a valve stem and bolted to the wheel. The tire inflation systems were able to maintain preset pressures in trailer tires, and offer warning lights that could be viewed in the driver’s mirrors. And the tire monitoring systems delivered their data to monitors in each cab.

Researchers tracked everything from mileage to fuel consumption, system status, visual tire inspections, tire pressure, tread depth, tire failures, in-service failures, tire replacements and system maintenance. The systems themselves were also exposed to a test track to see how they would perform in extreme situations. When one tire failed, for example, the automatic tire inflation system would not pull air from the other tires.

The Sheetz test fleet covered 3.9 million miles, consumed 632,000 US gallons of fuel, and identified 160 worn tires and 38 tire incidents. At GFS, the test fleet covered 3.4 million miles, burning 520,000 US gallons of diesel. About 278 worn tires had to be replaced.

The steer and tanker tires used in the Sheetz fleet lasted as long as they ever did, but the life of the drive tires was extended by about 30/32 inch per million miles. The control group lost about 154.5/32 of tire depth per million miles, compared to the test fleet where tires were consumed at a rate of 125/32 per million miles. Related results from the GFS fleet were not available because the equipment did not come back to the maintenance facility as often as expected.

When asked if the monitors could deliver an added safety benefit, Flanigan admitted that accidents linked to catastrophic tire failures are “relatively few and far between.” But the equipment can help to reduce the calls for roadside tire repairs, which can be dangerous when completed next to a live lane of traffic, he said.


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2 Comments » for Tire pressure systems deliver fuel savings, extend tire life: US research
  1. Ross Souch Checkerboard Consultants Inc. says:

    I carried an ACZ licence for over 33 years and always wondered how kicking or hitting a tire could tell you how much air was in a tire.

    We have recently become the Canadian Distributor for a very economical tire saver product that measures the PSI constantly. Contact us at checkerboard@sympatico.ca if you wish to get more information.

  2. dieseltaylor says:

    Should be interesting to see the whole report. I have no doubt that any attention paid to tires above the norm would produce an improvement. Thats what trials generally do.

    One drawback I think with all these systems is that it reduces even more the need for a driver to walk around his rig and look for other damage or things caught up between tires. However this fault may be overcome if there is a RFID tag in each tire that needs pinging each period.

    For that matter in the next couple of years the advent of a handheld pressure reader/recorder per truck may provide for truckers to pick-up and drop of trailers and record the trailer pressures and tire condition.

    No need to upkeep the mechanics of a Meritor type system, or the fuss of the valve attachments which I assume are battery replacement/non-replacement items. Knowing the driver checks and records pressures every day is great when there is no daily RTB.

    Anyway with embedded RFID tags in tires coming on strong, and the existing ability to add them to existing tires the picture will be different in a couple of years.

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