DO YOU SEE THEM AS A NECESSARY EVIL, OR AS AN INVESTMENT? IAN NORWELL LOOKS AT THE NEW TECHNOLOGY COMING TO RUBBER, AND DISCUSSES THE SPECIAL NEEDS OF THE ABNORMAL LOAD HAULIER
Cases, rubber, boots, covers. Whatever you call them, tyres are a haulier’s only grip on reality. Treading a fine dividing line between safety and economy, they have the hardest of jobs, and because they are essentially disposable, they are open to neglect and abuse.
But tyres are getting smarter, and so are the hauliers who want to find that sweet spot where risk is minimised and no cash is wasted. It may seem odd that there are no tyres specially designed for the heavy haulier, but the tyre makers obviously do acknowledge the extra duress they are under. Jeremy Wheeler, technical manager at Michelin, responsible for heavy haulage applications, says that like all specialised sectors there’s a professional body that sets the standards. The European tyre and rim technical organisation (ETRTO) publish tables on load carrying capacity, dependent on speed. Wheeler says “It’s obvious that heavy transport specialists operate at high gross train weights, often at up to five times the maximum C&U limits, but the number of axles used, the higher pressures, and the slower speeds all add up to forces that still work well within a tyre’s design limits.”
But he admits that fuel may not be the primary concern for these types of operators. “It would be cavalier to say that fuel economy is out of the window in STGO operation, but many of the factors that should be part of a 44-tonner’s fuel saving strategy just don’t have the same impact at super-high weights.” Aerodynamics are of little moment, and the low rolling resistance qualities of an energy tyre aren’t fully realised either. General recommendations would go for a good quality regional tyre, with maybe an on-off road pattern if there was an element of rough road work.
Meanwhile, at Bridgestone, Andy Mathias, the company’s product and marketing manager, notes an increasing trend in the industry – tyre manufacturers moving from simply being suppliers to added value partners. “As a long-term supplier to the heavy transport industry, notably with Ainscough, Bridgestone’s experience in the sector is an important part of our approach to market.
However we are seeing more demands for a Total Tyre Care solution encompassing tyre products, systems (such as Tyre Pressure Monitoring), and proactive tyre service.”