Maintaining a heavy-duty commercial working truck is a non-stop investment. Keeping an entire fleet on the road compounds operating and maintenance expenses by thousands of dollars.
For most trucking companies, tire maintenance is a major expense – exceeded only by labor and fuel. As with any business, anything that can be done to save money makes a difference – and in trucking, tire pressure monitoring is one major way fleets and owner operators can save thousands.
Balanced tired pressure is essential for any vehicle. You wouldn’t haul dirt behind a tractor in a trailer with one low tire around your yard, let alone navigate the highway on 18 wheels.
When one tire is off, the whole cargo is affected.
First, the tire with low pressure is going to move differently, causing more rapid wear to the tire itself. Now you have a tire not only low in pressure but shaped differently than the others.
Secondly, when one tire isn’t performing well, the others have to compensate. This makes all the tires work harder to stay balanced. Working harder requires more energy and energy means fuel. Now it’s costing you more to fill your tank, even though you’re travelling the same distance with the same load. One bad tire can wreak havoc on your bottom line.
How is your Pressure?
If you had to guess right now how your truck’s tire pressure was, what would you say? It’s all good? Maybe one tire is under-inflated. Maybe two?
According to the studies cited by the North American for Freight Efficiency, you’d be surprised just how “off” many trucks/trailers are:
- About one out of five tractors/trucks is operating with one or more tires underinflated by at least 20 psi.
- About one in five trailers is operating with one or more tires underinflated by at least 20 psi.
- Nearly 3.5% of all tractors/trucks operate with four or more tires underinflated by at least 20 psi.
- 3% of all trailers operate with four or more tires underinflated by at least 20 psi.
- Approximately 3% of all trailers, and more than 3% of all tractors/trucks, are operating with at least one tire underinflated by 50 psi or more.
- Only 46% of all tractor tires and 38% of all trailer tires inspected were within +/- 5 psi of the target pressure.
So, how do you make sure your tires are always working efficiently? Easy, you stop every chance you can and check the pressure on each one individually.
Just kidding. You could do that, but the trucking industry has come up with MUCH better ways to balance and monitor tire pressure that save time and money.
Tire Pressure Monitoring Systems
A semi-truck tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) employs a network of sensors connected to an onboard screen. The sensors “talk” to one another and send information to the screen in the cab so drivers can see when and where there is a problem.
Each tire is based on a pre-set target pressure. The system issues alerts based on the difference between the target pressure and the actual measured pressure in the tire.
A tire pressure monitoring system will alert the driver of a slow leak or imbalance before damage to the tire itself occurs.
The Talon system is one popular model of TPMS. Learn more here
Tire Pressure Equalization Systems
In a tire pressure equalization system, one sensor unit is mounted to the wheel end and monitors pressure in both tires of a dual-tire assembly. A hose connects each tire valve stem.
If pressure levels between the tires do not match, the system will attempt to bring the inflation pressure of the two tires to the same level. Many things can cause levels to not match – temperature warming of one tire position versus the other, unequal loading, or slow air seepage. If a leak is detected, the valve will stop filling the leaking tire once it reaches a certain PSI.
Dual Dynamics’ Crossfire system is a popular tire pressure equalization system. Learn more here.
Automatic Tire Inflation Systems
This type of system checks tire inflation pressure relative to a pre-set target. It reinflates tires whenever the detected pressure is below the target level.
There are two versions of this system type. One uses the compressed air system on the truck. The other uses outside atmospheric air. Basically, these systems let you know reinflation is taking place, but do not report on the actual pressure in the tire.
Here is an example of an Automatic Tire Inflation System.
Regular Inspection and Maintenance
Monitoring tire pressure and balance will absolutely lengthen the life of your tires – but it won’t make them last forever. Regular inspection and maintenance is still necessary.
No matter how advanced technology gets, manual pre-trip inspections are essential and should never be skipped. This handy tool can help.
Maintaining balance tire pressure not only saves money and time – it promotes highway safety. A properly inflated tire is a SAFE tire – and at the end of the day, the best way to save the most money in trucking is keeping your trucks ON the road.
You can learn more about tire pressure by visiting the NACFE’s Web site: https://nacfe.org/