Tire Care in HAZMAT Hauling
As a trucker, you’ve spent a lot of time getting up-close and personal with the Michelin Man. The stretching and straining of constant tire checks is as synonymous with the job to you as empty energy drink cans and horror-movie pitstops. Like many drivers (especially those on dual wheel rigs), you’ve probably been tempted to fudge a pressure check or two, so you can stop stalling and get back on the road. If you’re hoping a HAZMAT trucking job means less time spent kicking tires, however, you’re barking up the wrong tree. Tire maintenance and monitoring—including regular PSI checks—maximizes fuel efficiency, promotes tire longevity, and helps keep hazardous cargo on the road.
Common Causes of Tire Failure
Whether you’re carrying Coca Cola or gasoline, truck trailer tires look pretty much the same. There’s tread, steel belts, and layer upon layer of rubber designed to keep you riding high. They drive the same—and they fail the same too. With almost half of emergency roadside calls being tire-related, you’ve probably experienced the aftermath of a tire failure. Maybe you heard the innocuous, flap-flap of a flat tire as you pulled into the dirt. Or you were left watching the aftermath of a blowout as rubber shrapnel flew down the freeway. While pinpointing the exact cause of tire failure isn’t easy, it typically results from a combination of:
- Inflation Issues: Researchers have found that 90 percent of tire blowouts can be traced to under inflation. Because of the high risk of zipper rupture and casing failure, experts recommend pulling any tire from service that’s been run at 20% below its recommended PSI. Unfortunately, shortcuts, like thumping tires, give drivers a false sense of security that they’re good to skip a proper check and get back on the road. But the only way to get a proper measurement of a tire’s PSI is a calibrated gauge or an automated tracking system. Because of the risk of turnover and explosions, HAZMAT drivers used to have it worse than most—they had to stop and do a full pressure check every two hours or 100 miles. Fortunately, recent technological advancements let them scale that back. Checks are now only required when you stop a journey or start one.
- Cargo Overload: While Savannah Transport will never overload a hazardous cargo truck, some trucking companies prioritize profits over safety. These companies will pile a few more pounds on an already full truck to shave a few pennies off their costs. This extra weight puts stress on the tires, significantly increasing the likelihood of a blowout.
- Bad Driving: Drivers are human. They make mistakes. We’ve all tapped too hard on the brakes, ran over a curb, or pushed our truck just a smidgeon past the speed limit. While acceptable in moderation, excessive mistakes can contribute to tire failure. So, if you don’t want to spend a few hours waiting for a tire truck, stay cognizant of the rules of the road.
- Tire Defects: Assembly lines, like people, aren’t perfect. Even 99.9% perfection equates to a lot of errors when you start talking in the millions. Issues in tire assembly, such as low-quality rubber or misaligned molds, can lead to sidewall failures, tread separation, and tire shredding. The likelihood of defect-related failure increase in the presence of rain, potholes, and other adverse road conditions. Reputable hazardous trucking companies, like ours, stay on top of recalls to ensure that this doesn’t happen.
- Heat: Anyone who passed high school science knows that heat causes things to expand. In extreme temperatures, the hot air swells and accelerates the aging of the tire. This can lead to ruptures and bubbling. That’s why so many truckers call Mid-May to October “Tire Blowout Season.” To help lessen the chance that their truckers fall victim to ambient temperatures, many hazardous trucking companies build tire cooldowns into their processes.
- Age: Not all things sweeten with age—including truck tires. According to the STTC, the average semi-truck tire lasts between three and six years before needing to be replaced. As tires edge closer to the latter number, the likelihood of zipper ruptures and dry rotting increases. To determine the age of a tire, look at the date code printed on its side. The first number indicates the month the tire was manufactured and the last two tell you the year. If you notice anything more than 6 years old, bring it to your fleet manager’s attention.
Keeping Yourself Safe and Your Tires in One Piece
A proper 18-wheel pressure check can take upwards of half an hour, more if anything needs adjusting. This time is on top of all the other inspections required of HAZMAT haulers. While these non-value-added pit stops aren’t fun, they help prevent devastating accidents and hours wasted waiting for a service call. Not only do these checks save you time, however. They’re actually required by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMSCA). To achieve optimal tire health and to lower the risk of flats and blowouts, HAZMAT drivers must:
- Systematically inspect tires according to the schedule specified by the FMCSA
- Never drive on tires in a condition that will result in breakdown or accident
- Inspect their tires before they leave for a trip, each time they start, and each time they stop
- Wait until tires are cold to measure tire pressure and do so using a calibrated gauge
- Report any tires 20% below recommended inflation to their supervisor for immediate replacement
- Abide by the tire’s recommended speed —even if it’s lower than the posted speed limit
- Visually inspect tires at the end of the day for cracks and bulges
- Measure tread depth, reporting any wheels that are mismatched or lower than 1/32 in depth
- Ensure your truck is maintained and in proper working order by reviewing the last posted driver’s report
- Regularly wash their tires to keep them free of debris and caked mud
Savannah Transport Knows Where the Rubber Hits the Road
We know how stressful truck driving can be. From keeping your eyes locked on the road for hours to sleepless nights, you’ve got enough to worry about. That’s why we do everything we can to make life easier for our drivers. This includes installing systems that help automatically monitor tire pressure to initiating a company policy against retreading old tires. But, unfortunately, none of these things is a substitute for what every driver hates: a good, old-fashioned tire check.
If you’re willing to put in the effort to keep our roads safe, Savannah Transport has the hazardous trucking job for you. Click here to apply today and get one step closer to a fantastic career.