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Talking Tire Safety

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Kevin Rohlwing of the Tire Industry Association tackles today’s tread trends.

As a shop owner, you and your techs follow a truckload of safety regulations when fixing vehicles. But what about when it comes to working on tires? While not as complex as a diesel engine, these rubber donuts still need specialized instruction to service, or else you might find yourself on the wrong end of an Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) investigation.

Tire Industry Association Headshot for Kevin Rohlwing

Photo courtesy Tire Industry Association

Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training at the Tire Industry Association.

“There’s an OSHA regulation that requires training for anyone who touches truck tires,” says Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training at the Tire Industry Association (TIA). “Whether you do it once or twice each month, week or day or you’re just bolting them on and off, it doesn’t matter. The requirement is the same.”

Comprised of more than 8,000 members across the globe, the TIA represents all segments of the trade. It aims to promote safety via training and education and advocates these interests in government affairs. Since June celebrates National Tire Safety Month, we invited Rohlwing to discuss today’s tread trends and how shop owners can minimize hazards in their operations.

 For those unfamiliar with the TIA, what does the association do?

We are primarily a nonprofit organization that offers technical training to tire shops and service providers. We also do some lobbying at both federal and state [levels]. Some of the issues we’re working on are market fairness, estate tax and Last In First Out (LIFO) accounting [a technique that affirms the last assets produced or acquired are the first ones to be used, sold or disposed of].

What are its main action plans for 2017?

We just released an updated version of our automotive tire service program, and we’ve launched our certified earthmover tire service program. We’ll be [adding] three more videos by the end of the year to supplement our consumer education program.

How do they benefit owners and operators of repair shops?

None of the tire companies provide instruction in terms of actually servicing the product, the demounting and mounting, the lifting of the vehicles and getting the tires on and off. On the commercial truck side, you’ve got an OSHA regulation that requires training for anyone who touches a tire. So, even the fleets that do their own work still have to be educated according to OSHA, and we’re providing them with the compliance needed.

The biggest enemy to a tire is heat.

What’s the most pressing tire safety issue facing drivers on the road?

It’s the same thing it always is: inflation. That’s going to be No. 1, especially in the summer. The biggest enemy to a tire is heat, and when the heat inside the structure keeps increasing, that’s when the components start coming apart. In the wintertime, underinflation causes heat buildup, but the lower ambient temperatures can offset that to some degree. In the summer, there’s nothing to counter this situation. So, the levels climb, and, once they reach a certain point, the tire can no longer hold itself together.

What are the most common tire hazards for drivers?

For semis, it’s curbs. How many times do you see a tractor-trailer pull into a parking lot, and its rear tires get dragged over the curb? It happens all the time and damages a lot of tires.

How do our deteriorating highways and infrastructure play a part in tire safety risks?

If potholes are repaired, you’re not going to have as many damaged tires. The rougher the road, the harder it is on the tires.

Tire blowouts are major hazards for truck drivers and motorists on the road.

How can shop owners aid in reducing these threats?

For the highway, they need to make sure the tires have the right inflation. They [also] have to contend with “wheel-offs,” where the wheels come off the truck or trailer. So, having the proper torque or clamping force, installing the wheels correctly and following the appropriate procedures for every system is going to have an impact.

What can operators do to promote tire safety in their facilities?

As far as safety in the business goes, it’s training. There are a lot of [dangers] in the shop related to lifting the vehicle. If you don’t raise the truck properly, it could fall on the tech, which never ends well. [Concerning inflation], if the tire is not in a restraining device or safety cage or if you don’t have an OSHA-compliant inflation device that allows the employee to stand outside the trajectory of the [tire’s]  sidewall while [it’s being inflated], that puts the tech at tremendous risk.

Are there any other hazards for techs?

The top three ways that a mechanic is going to be fatally injured are if a vehicle falls on him or her, the tire blows up while he or she inflates it or he or she gets rolled over. [This occurs when]  the driver gets in the cab and accelerates away while the tech is still under the vehicle. That happens too many times. It’s way more common than you’d think.

What can shop owners do to prevent roll over incidents from happening?

Some people use magnetic signs across the door. Others will place the keys in a plastic bag and hang them off the mirror. There are a number of ways you can communicate that the vehicle is being serviced. The steering wheel cover seems to be popular because it’s obvious to anyone in the driver’s seat.

Are all tires created equal?

No, not even close. The name-brand ones are going to deliver a cost per mile that the offshore [manufacturers] will never come close to because they’re not trying. They’re [producing based on cost], and for the fleet that wants to buy on price, that’s what they’re going to purchase. They’re not going to deliver the same cost per mile, and [the fleets are] not going to get the “retreadability” out of it.

You could get twice the mileage on a name-brand tire and multiple retreads out of it.

Are there any other differences between expensive and budget-friendly tires?

On a name-brand truck tire, you’re going to get much better mileage on the original tread than you would on an offshore, cheap one. You could get twice the mileage on a name-brand tire and multiple retreads out of it. That’s where the cost per mile comes into play and how those companies can sell their tires for twice what the offshore brands charge.

What are the latest tire trends for big rigs?

It would be the rise of wide-base singles, where one large, wide-base tire replaces dual [varieties]. It’s a reduction in weight, and they claim to deliver better fuel mileage.

How many miles can you put on a semi tire?

It depends on the wheel position, the vehicle, the driver and the tire. You can get 50,000 to 100,000 miles on trailer tires, 100,000 to 200,000 miles on steer tires and 100,000 to more than 200,000 miles on tractor tires. It may be more or less, depending on a lot of factors.

Do you foresee any tire safety concerns with the rise of autonomous vehicles?

I don’t think that’s going to make much of a difference other than people might be less likely to maintain the tires. If you’re not responsible for driving it, are you still going to give the same attention to [servicing] it? It may work the other way as well. The vehicle may provide drivers with indicators to rotate their tires and use pressure monitoring systems to remind them to inflate their tires. So, it could go either way.

What’s the most important message shop operators should pass along to their customers about tire safety?

Checking inflation pressure on a regular basis, inspecting the tires on the pre-trip and having the torque checked after the first 50 to 100 miles following installation.

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