While we’ve spent plenty of time talking about autonomous trucks, what we really need are autonomous tires. We’re talking about tires that do things like maintain their own pressure, report excessive tread wear and alert technicians to potential balance issues. How about if they also reported back when the truck is out of alignment?
Imagine how long a tire would last if it was able to look after itself as opposed to needing near-constant maintenance. Is this all just a pipe dream? For now, perhaps. But in the meantime, there are steps you can take that will remove tire maintenance from the realm of tired old chore.
New systems are now available that allow you to drive your vehicle over a plate in the ground and have the tread depth and tire inflation recorded. Technology within the plate allows it to assess critical aspects of your tire from the footprint alone.
These systems can be installed in most indoor locations, from inspection lanes to tire shops. The readings taken by the plate in the ground are sent to a heads up display that can be read by the technician. You can also upload them to a tire management database, print them, create charts and graphs and follow patterns.
Most systems work by using a pre-entered set of information into the database. If the results from the plate match up with what the database reports, a green light or some other notification will alert the user that the tire is cleared for driving.
Otherwise, a red signal or other type of notification indicates the tire needs some type of servicing. And while these systems don’t inflate or repair the tires for you, they do a great job at speeding up the triage process and allowing you to quickly identify tires that are in need of attention.
Other comprehensive tire management systems available today offer the ability to upload tire data, which prevents technicians from the tedium of yard surveys. Also, when trailers are out in the field and not within site of the shop, data-sharing helps identify tires that are in need of servicing.
Feeling the Love
Even Love’s is getting in on the action. They have recently implemented the new TirePass program, which provides truck drivers stopping at any of Love’s 75 locations with a courtesy tire inspection and inflation while they’re fueling up.
Love’s provides a technician who will measure tread depth, visually check the tire and wheel assemblies, and check the tire pressure. If a tire is below the desired pressure, it will be re-inflated. If the tire is less than 75% of its intended pressure, they will not inflate it, for safety reasons. They will, however, recommend an inspection to isolate and rectify the problem.
While the initial inspection is free, further inspections are $5 each, for either the truck or the trailer. Printed reports can be requested and data can be uploaded to fleet management departments. It’s best to do inspections like these before the start of the driving shift, when tires are cold and it’s easier to measure accurate pressure.
An Efficient Workload
Even as advances in preventative and diagnostic technology continue to come online, even put together they still won’t eliminate the need for tire maintenance. With the proper tools, however, you can lighten your maintenance load.
Today’s new tire changing tools can manage almost any size truck tire, including wide-single tires. They can also be mounted without scuffing the rims on the floor or doing any damage to the bead area of the tire.
Even when it comes to wheel alignments, no easy task, new infrared and laser-based systems make wheel alignment a cinch. Always remember, while automation is great, never substitute it for a good, real, human tire inspection. We want to minimize the technician’s workload, but not let him or her get sloppy in the process.