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Features - Safety Focus | Tires

Practicing preventative tire maintenance can help keep waste fleets running smoothly and efficiently.

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June 8, 2021

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When it comes to ensuring the optimal performance of a waste collection fleet, routine tire management can play a crucial role in keeping trucks running effectively.

Given the harsh conditions collection vehicles face in their day-to-day operations, diagnosing tire wear issues early on can minimize costs and alleviate maintenance headaches for fleet managers that can occur when on-the-road issues such as flats and blowouts occur.

“Trash trucks in the waste industry get a lot more abuse on their tires than anything else, especially on a rear loader,” says Dominic Greco, fleet manager for Ivyland, Pennsylvania-based Leck Waste Services. “Typically, these trucks are going into cul-de-sacs and making hard turns all day long, so it’s creating a lot of damage on the tires.”

The strenuous nature of residential collection that includes constant turns and starts and stops can also affect the vehicle’s suspension, according to Greco.

“Because of all the twisting and dragging that the tires are doing, as well as the rocks and [other debris on the road], it just destroys the tires [when] compared to a front loader that is doing commercial work,” he says.

Harsh driving conditions, known as high-scrub applications, are a primary cause of tire wear on waste hauler trucks due to the abrasion that can result from daily operation and contact with curbs and debris on the road. To prevent excessive tire scrubbing, waste fleet tires are commonly designed with thicker sidewalls and tread compounds that are more resistant to abrasion. Additionally, these tires need to be durable because of the high torque demands placed on the tires from both the engine and the brakes.

The cost of these specially designed tires can go up to $1,000 a piece, which is why paying close attention to tire wear can help operators maximize the investment.

PREVENTATIVE MAINTENANCE

While some types of waste trucks—such as front loaders, side loaders and roll-offs—don’t usually experience as much daily wear as rear loaders, Greco stresses it is still important to carry out frequent inspections of these vehicles to improve tire life.

A general rule of thumb in the waste industry is to slightly overinflate tires to prevent truck squat, or truck sag, with heavier loads. Without taking this measure, misalignment can cause an uneven tire footprint, thus deceasing the vehicle’s fuel mileage.

Additionally, by eliminating truck sag in this way, operators can help prevent friction issues that occur when tires are under heavy loads.

“As the truck is loaded, the inside and outside tires start to rub together which [creates] heat and can cause blowouts,” says Greco. “The only way to solve that is to increase your tire pressure. So, if the tire calls for 90 pounds per square inch (PSI), we’re going to run 110 PSI in them.”

In addition to regularly checking tire pressures, Greco says Leck has also set up a preventative maintenance program for more thorough inspections.

“Trucks come in roughly every two weeks to two and a half weeks to get greases, tires checked, lights checked, etc.,” he says. “What we’re looking for when we’re inspecting the tires is any cuts in the sidewalls, the treads getting damaged, improper inflation, the valve stems [being intact] and cracked rims on the tires. We inspect the tires completely inside and out.”

Most sidewall damage can be credited to driving in tight urban areas where scrubbing or curbing is common. While most waste haul tires can withstand some curbing—usually through protective curb ribs—excessive curbing can cause an effect called pinch shock, which can result in a crimped core.

“We don’t dismount the tires or anything like that, but we do [inspect them] on an outside visual,” says Greco. “Based on how the tire is placed on the truck, we’ll check for tread separation, tread depth and inflation. If we find excessive wear on them, especially regarding the tread, we will pull the tires off before [the tread] hits 5/32 [of an inch.]”

“What we’re looking for when we’re inspecting the tires is any cuts in the sidewalls, the treads getting damaged, improper inflation, the valve stems [being intact] and cracked rims on the tires. We inspect the tires completely inside and out.” –Dominic Greco, fleet manager, Leck Waste Services

He adds, “The program that we run here, if we have two tires that are within 3/32 [of an inch] from where we’re supposed to pull them off, we always do the entire axle. We never just replace two tires; it’s always the entire axle.”

According to Greco, tire rotation also plays a considerable role in the regular maintenance of a fleet’s tires.

“When you’re doing your service on the trucks and you’re taking a look at your tire wear, one tire could be wearing more than the other, depending on how much the truck is turning and what the truck is doing,” he says. “So, what we do is we’ll take the tires off and we’ll put them from the driver’s side to the passenger side and vice versa.”

Greco says that being vigilant on keeping up with a tire rotation schedule can help ensure the tires wear evenly, while also extending their life.

AVOIDING EXCESS COSTS

By practicing routine preventative maintenance on a fleet’s tires, Greco says the long-term benefits can be substantial for haulers.

“Keeping up with proper care of your tires really saves in the long run with the wear and tear on your tires, but with the mechanical parts that are on the truck, as well,” he says. “When tire maintenance is neglected, uneven wear can cause significant harm to gears and other internal mechanics.

“If you have tires that are almost bald on one side, and then you have fairly new tires on the other side, the smaller diameter compared to the bigger diameter will cause all your gears and everything that is in the rear to fight against each other,” Greco says.

If tire maintenance is continually delayed, Greco warns that sustaining a fleet can become a considerable expense.

“If you neglect your tires or are not inspecting them the way that you should, it gets pretty expensive,” he says. “We’ve probably saved close to $40,000 with how we do our tire programs here compared to if we just let the truck go and did not do anything with them.

“One of the consequences you have [in neglecting tire maintenance] is you’ll spend an astronomical amount of money, especially when you consider you’re taking the chance of ruining a brand-new tire or ruining your casing.”

In addition to regularly checking the fleet, Greco says Leck works to train drivers on ways to extend the life of their tires.

“You’ve got some drivers out there, and they just take sharp turns if they’re making a standard left turn or right turn. By taking the turn a little bit wider to extend your steering radius, you’re not putting as much wear and tear on the tires,” he says.

While there are a number of causes of tire wear, responsibility for upkeep doesn’t just fall on one person’s shoulders. Adopting a comprehensive maintenance and training program can help get everyone in the organization on the same page when it comes to protecting vehicles and maximizing a truck’s ROI.

The author is the assistant editor of Waste Today and can be reached at hrischar@gie.net.