Drivers for waste and recycling hauling companies put their vehicles through their paces in stop-and-go traffic, working consistent operating hours at least five days per week. Each truck rides on a set of tires that represents a critical line of defense against injuries and accidents.
Fleet management at a multi-vehicle waste firm is a full-time vocation, and strict attention to the condition of tires is a critical part of the job.
In North America, the sometimes relentless heat of south Florida or the Arizona desert can create added stress on tires, while long stretches of sub-freezing temperatures can add risk in other parts of the country.
Jim Faherty, national fleet manager for Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., says there are unique steps to take in extreme climates, but he advises waste haulers, “Whether it’s hot or cold, good roads or bad, the most important thing is having a maintenance program in place that is built around your needs.”
The heat is on
As summer sets in throughout North America, the impact of relentless heat on tires (and the heated pavement on which they ride) is likely on the minds of some fleet managers.
“Heat is a tire’s nemesis, so attention to operating temperatures is always important,” Faherty says. Maintaining optimal air pressure is one way to stave off ill effects on tires and the truck’s engine, but it is not the only consideration in play.
Faherty says tire treads designed to handle changing weather in temperate climates may not be needed in desert or sub-tropical climates. “High temperatures increase road temperature, and our experience has shown that a shallower tread design performs best,” he comments.
In the case of Goodyear’s product line, says Faherty, “When considering a waste haul application, depending on temperature and application, our Total Mobility team might recommend the Endurance WHA 26/32 rib tread design instead of the Endurance WHD 32/32 lug drive tread design” for haulers in the hottest parts of the country.
In the hottest latitudes or during a heat wave elsewhere, much of the rest of the responsibility falls on drivers and maintenance staff to inspect tires and react accordingly.
“Air pressures must be frequently inspected so as not to overheat [tires and wheel well components] due to overload,” says Faherty.
Heat building up in a truck’s wheel wells can be a fire hazard, Faherty explains.
“It’s also important to remember that brake heat will contribute extra heat to the tire and wheel assembly in addition to tire and road heat. This means that fleets need to pay more attention to driver habits, equipment maintenance and even different brake hardware to manage heat buildup or improve dissipation.”
Tire performance also changes with the heat, says Faherty.
“Once on the road, tire and brake energy will increase operating temperatures, which will increase tire pressure,” he says. “Therefore, it is extremely important tire inflation is adjusted when tires are cold, not at the end of a route when they are hot. We recommend that all drivers receive tire pressure training to understand when and how to manage their tires. Drivers should check tire pressure before starting their route and adjust accordingly.”
In some climates, “Salt in the air can affect wheel surfaces, causing rust,” says Faherty. “With so many variables, a good wheel inspection and maintenance program can’t be overstated,” he adds, pointing to the Goodyear Total Mobility platform as a feature offered by his company.
Coming in from the cold
North Americans from outside the Sun Belt understand the correlation between freezing temperatures and tire air pressure all too well.
“As temperatures decrease in cold climates, air pressure decreases; it is very important to stay properly inflated as the ambient air temperatures decrease,” says Faherty.
Winter operating costs can climb if tire pressure does not receive the proper attention, he adds.
“Mismatched tire pressure and tread depth can greatly impact tire wear rates and increase cost per mile and cost per hour,” he says.
One unfortunate aspect of tire maintenance for drivers and mechanics is that checking the air pressure of the many tires on a large vehicle can be trying in freezing conditions.
“Checking air pressure in cold weather can be difficult if valve stems get ice buildup from air checks,” says Faherty. “They could even stick open and create a leak, leading to issues or premature removal.”
Tire and truck manufacturers are competing to offer helpful fleet maintenance data and analysis, and Goodyear is no exception, says Faherty. “Goodyear offers a TPMS+ service and Checkpoint Drive-Over Reader to help with automated monitoring and real-time tire data to help avoid problems and keep your fleet up and running.”
While freezing temperatures pose one set of challenges to the condition of truck tires, it is hard to talk winter weather without considering tire traction on icy surfaces and its associated safety challenges.
“In cold and snowy climates, winter traction can be improved with tires designed for this environment and application,” the tire company fleet manager comments. “Rubber compounding and tread elements optimized for this type of service can greatly improve traction.”
In the case of Goodyear, he recommends “tires like Endurance TSD, Ultra Grip RTD, Endurance WTD and Ultra Grip Max to help navigate different wintery environments.”
Not all change is good
In the temperate climate found in most of the United States and in southern Canada, freeze-thaw cycles common from roughly November to March create another nemesis for tires: potholes.
“Road hazards create tire damage on trucks just like they do on your personal vehicle,” comments Faherty. “Training for drivers can help with some of this, but there are times you just can’t avoid every pothole. Proper inflation can also help maintain your tire’s ability to withstand some of this abuse.”
If a truck finds a pothole or any other road hazard or if an operator notices something else amiss with a truck’s ride, documentation is key.
“Daily pre- and post-trip inspections are important to help identify damage before it creates downtime on the road,” Faherty says. “Drivers should write up any vehicle drive complaints so they can be corrected before they cause more wear and tear, usually resulting in more expensive repairs.”
Faherty recommends “specialized [data] tools that provide real-time tire monitoring, intelligent analysis and customized reporting to optimize your fleet, your budget and your time” as worthy of consideration.
A comprehensive in-house fleet maintenance program is the overarching recommendation from Faherty, but he also wants to let waste and recycling haulers know they are not alone.
“It’s also important to have a relationship with an experienced support team to help adjust as environments and seasons change,” he concludes.