Emissions-related changes are adding to the interest in automatic tire inflation systems.
SAN ANTONIO, Texas — Business is booming for Pressure Systems International (PSI) – a privately held Texas company that invented automatic tire inflation systems (ATIS) about 26 years ago, says Jim Sharkey, vice-president – global sales and marketing.
The business has reached the milestone of producing 1.5 million systems. It took 22 years to build the first million units, but only four to produce 500,000 of them. PSI counts on a solid partnership with Meritor, which handles North American sales, marketing, service and distribution of the Meritor Tire Inflation System (MTIS) by PSI.
Twenty years ago, the company was selling the concept of the technology. But once fleets began to introduce the equipment, and saw returns on the related investment within a single year, then sales followed a “hockey stick” growth pattern, Sharkey says.
Users saw fuel economy improve, tread wear reduce, road calls drop, and labor savings emerge. One fleet even saw automatic tire inflation systems (ATIS) extend tire life by 16 to 24 months, he adds.
Regulatory changes are influencing interest in the technology in their own right. California’s Phase 2 emissions standards that apply to trailers will take effect Jan. 1. And those standards can be met using technologies such as tire pressure systems, among other options like low-rolling-resistance tires.
Canada is expected to adopt similar standards in May 2020.
It took 22 years to build the first million units, but only four to produce 500,000 of them
“ATIS is one of the most rapidly adopted technologies,” said David Schaller, industry engagement director at the North American Council for Freight Efficiency (NACFE), during a presentation at a PSI event.
Automatic tire inflation systems are used by 70% of the Top 200 for-hire and private fleets in U.S., said Sharkey. And more than 65% of all new trailers built in North America today have a tire solution, whether it comes in the form of ATIS, a tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS), hub-mounted pump, tire equalization system, tire sealing technology, or nitrogen.
“Tires continue to be the Number 1 maintenance cost for commercial fleets. In every trucking magazine, there is always a story saying inflation pressure is the biggest issue facing fleets today. The thing is, it takes way too long to check 18 tires or more,” said tire expert Al Cohn, director of new market development and engineering support at PSI.
Trailer tires always have the worst air pressure, Cohn added. “The steer tires always have the best air pressure. The further back you go, the standard deviation increases. The outside duals are always better than the inside duals. And the driver side is better than the right side. The worst tire is the right rear inside trailer tire. People just never get to that tire.”
Tire debris that you sometimes see on the road, commonly called “gators”, are a result of underinflation, and it’s not limited to retread tires. That can happen with underinflated new tires, too. Osmosis – the loss of air through the casing itself – can cause a tire to lose 1-3 lb. a month, said Cohn.
ATIS, while a flagship product, isn’t the only product by PSI. In 2018 the business acquired TST and its tire pressure monitoring system known as TireView. It uses telematics to measure tractor tire pressures, temperatures, and wheel-end temperatures.