How to Handle Fleet Truck Tire Blowouts
Proper preventive maintenance practices for trucking fleets cover a wide gamut of vehicle components that should regularly be evaluated, repaired or replaced.
Tires are an elemental piece of a preventive maintenance strategy and fleets who are not giving this area of their operations the attention it deserves may find themselves unlucky enough to experience tire blowouts. Not only do blowouts pose an extreme safety risk for drivers, but they also result in subsequent vehicle downtime and additional maintenance costs.
How Often Should I Replace My Tires?
The general rule of thumb is for semi-truck tires to get replaced somewhere between 25,000 miles and 50,000 miles of use, or no more than six years after they were first purchased. However, fleets may also be able to get up to 75,000 miles on their tires through regular maintenance and attention.
Fleets should monitor the conditions of their tires as often as they can to spot any visible imperfections or damages. This will help them address making any necessary replacement or repairs of the tires as soon as possible.
Check Your Tire Pressure
How much your tires are inflated – or under-inflated – can greatly impact the risk of potential tire blowouts on the road. But there isn’t just one type of tire on a semi-truck to consider; the amount of tire pressure necessary depends on the type that are used for semi-trucks: steer tires or drive tires.
Long-haul semi-trucks need to have somewhere between 75 and 80 psi in any drive tire when loaded to the maximum U.S. Interstate weight limit of 34,000 pounds per tandem axle group and where each tire in a dual assembly carries 4,250 pounds on cold inflation pressure, the standard inflation pressure denominator.
Meanwhile, a typical steer tire should have a minimum cold inflation pressure between 105 and 110 psi.
The above inflation numbers will vary depending on the tire manufacturer.
How Weather Impacts Tires
Weather conditions can also increase the likelihood of a blowout, particularly with how it influences vehicle psi levels.
Checking tire pressure in cold weather is the same as in the heat, but is increasingly important as tire inflation typically drops along with the temperature. The lower the inflation of the tire, the more likely it may experience a blowout because of its over-flexing.
According to Goodyear, as temperatures get colder, drivers may notice an impact on their tire pressure, and their TPMS light may be illuminated on the dashboard. For every temperature drop of 10 degrees, tires will drop one to two pounds of pressure.
However, underinflation or overloading in colder temperatures may not create enough internal heat to cause a separation because the cold air temperature cools it down as it operates, said Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training, Tire Industry Association.
Underinflated tires generate excessive internal heat due to increased sidewall flexing along with a longer tire footprint. Underinflated tires pose a more serious risk of a blowout than tires that are a few psi overinflated, particularly in hotter weather.
“Excessive heat is the enemy of a truck tire so higher ambient temperatures are commonly associated with tire failures during operation. When properly inflated and loaded, the ambient temperature is not a factor,” said Rohlwing.
Indeed, excessive heat can also be detrimental to the stability of tires if they are underinflated, as this may lead to tire failure.
“Summer is hard on truck tires because it doesn’t take much underinflation to create a problem when temperatures are higher because the tire doesn’t cool down,” added Rohlwing.
The Dangers of Tire Blowouts
Is your fleet doing its part to monitor the condition and inflation levels of its tires? If not, you’re putting your fleet at risk of potential injuries or even fatalities that could occur as a result of drivers operating vehicles with unsafe tires.
For example, in May 2021, a man was killed, and another seriously injured, on a highway when a tire blew on an oncoming semi-truck, causing the truck to cross into their lane and crash into their vehicle.
Another instance earlier this year in Texas saw a blowout cause a tractor-trailer to strike a concrete barrier on an interstate and catch fire.
According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, there are an estimated 78,000 collisions that occur every year due to unsafe tires. In 2017, 738 deaths occurred due to unsafe tires on the road.
What to do if Blowouts Occur?
Your drivers should be prepared to handle the immediate risks of a potential blowout. When blowouts occur they must make quick decisions to ensure their safety.
“Get control of the vehicle and then find a spot on the side of the road where the tire(s) can be safely changed,” said Rohlwing. “If possible, get the vehicle to the next exit so it’s easy to find and safe to service. After that, the driver would follow their normal procedures for reporting a roadside breakdown.”
According to Firestone, there are five critical steps to surviving a blowout:
- Stay calm and resist making sudden maneuvers.
- Keep steering your vehicle straight, and do not try to overcorrect the direction the vehicle is heading.
- Gently press on the gas pedal briefly after the incident, as this can help drivers regain control of the vehicle. Do not slam on the brakes.
- The blowout will naturally slow the speed of the vehicle. Let it slow itself.
- Let your speed gradually drop below 30 mph, then gently step on the brakes. Now you can more easily maneuver out of traffic.
Regularly educating and training drivers on these points is critical, especially since they can be hard to quickly remember in the heat of the moment.
“We cannot stress enough how important it is for the driver to find a safe place to pull over so the tires can be serviced,” said Rohlwing. “There have been a number of accidents where technicians attempted to service tires in situations when there wasn’t enough room to work safely and they were injured or killed as a result.”
How Much Does Replacing a Truck Tire Cost?
Tire blowouts will likely cause a loss of business productivity and added unwanted repair costs as a result of the downtime with the semi-truck, though for how long and how much will vary by the fleet.
“That depends on the situation. In some cases it’s a few hours and hundreds of dollars while in others, it can be half a day and thousands in tire/wheel replacement and/or vehicle repairs,” said Rohlwing.
On average, the price of a semi-truck tire is in the $500 range, though this can fluctuate depending on the manufacturer, the current state of tire prices in general, etc.
If you’re replacing 16 out of 18 tires on an 18 wheeler, annual tire expenses can run around $4,000 a year to replace.
Vehicle downtime can greatly exacerbate the costs of tires, especially if you’re trying to get your vehicles quickly back on the road.
If you’d like to learn more about how GPS Trackit can help to improve safety, increase productivity and reduce costs for your business, speak with one of our knowledgeable Fleet Advisors at 866-320-5810 or get a quick Custom Quote.
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