Petroleum problemsIt takes about 22 gallons of oil to make a new tire, according to the Tire Retread and Repair Information Bureau. At $100/barrel (42 gallons), that's $53 for just one raw material — the cost of the oil content.Meanwhile, inflation has increased tire prices by at least $50 in the past year, making the cost of one new tire as much as $500.Retreads consume only about one-third the petroleum new tires do. The other two-thirds are in the casing, which, with proper care, can last two retreadings or more.
With the Doran 360 SmartLink, wirelessWith the D 360 S rtLink wi le sensors screwed onto the valve stems of trailer tires send pressure information to a trailer-mounted receiver, which transfers the data to a cab-mounted display unit. Photo: Doran Manufacturing

It's a sign of the technological age that computers can help reduce tire costs. For example, the TireVigil software system manufactured by TireStamp Inc., of Troy, Mich., facilitates the monitoring of inflation levels.

Designed to work with most tire-pressure monitoring systems, the program captures data, analyzes it, and even transmits it to the fleet manager's office in either a dual-mode or tri-mode. Dual-mode selects between cellular phone and satellite transmission, while Tri-mode adds Wi-Fi in urban areas.

TireStamp President Peggy Fisher is an icon of the truck tire industry. She is a former president of Roadway Tire Co. and has served as general chairman of the American Trucking Association's Technology and Maintenance Council. She was also a director of the International Tire and Rubber Association and president of the Tire Industry Association.

The TireVigil system developed under her leadership can generate reports hourly, so managers often determine tire troubles before drivers sense them. Drivers still get real-time pressure readings in their cabs.

Considering that a set of tires for a 10-wheel dump truck can cost $4,000 to $5,000, it's not much of an investment to pay $1,500 for hardware and $10 a month per truck for a telematics subscription.

With the system, “a manager gets to make the decision for the driver, rather than having the tire make it for him,” explains Fisher.

But she also reminds us that, aside from tire gauging, there's still no substitute for a visual inspection: “No monitoring system can identify cuts, nails, bolts, chunks missing from the tread, and irregular wear patterns. Only the driver or a tire technician can do that.”

— Paul Abelson is a former director of the Technology and Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Association, a board member of Truck Writers of North America, and active in the Society of Automotive Engineers.