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$100,000's TO $1,000,000's

This year, costs of fuel and tires have helped boost truck operating costs to new highs for many fleets.

The need for optimizing fuel mileage has been apparent for some time, but for some fleets, the sudden spike in tire prices has caused new alarm.

For many of these fleets, improved tire management will not only bring tire costs under control, but also provide significant fuel cost benefits.

Tire and fuel costs can be affected by improper alignment, improper balance and improper inflation pressure.


The first step in getting these issues under control is proper vehicle alignment.

Total Vehicle Alignment is the first, most effective way to improve tire and fuel costs.  70 to 80 percent of all truck, bus and trailer tires on the ground today are out of alignment. You can save not only from stopping irregular tread wear and loss of usable casings for retreads, but also by reducing "rolling resistance" from misalignment that costs you in fuel consumption.

Your tires all travel in the same direction but  they may not be tracking each other due to frame condition or offset wheels   Computer Alignment systems, such as the Hunter WinAlign System align all wheels to the geographical centerline of your tractors, trailers and busses   . Trailers are then independently aligned using the king pin as the base reference point so the wheels are tracking the king pin no matter what tractor is towing it.

Only an alignment machine that has the capability to determine the geographical centerline of the bus, tractor or trailer, including any wheel offset, can align the vehicle and do it with needed repeatability in all angles.

Tire Balance and Matching

The next most important factor in tire wear is proper balance and the matching of tires, paired  as duals, on the same end of an axle.

If a tire is not within ¼" (one-quarter inch) of having the same circumference, of the mate, the smaller unit will effectively slide or drag because of the difference in the rotational speed at the tread, significantly increasing the wear on the smaller tire. This also causes rolling resistance with an effect on fuel mileage, tread life and casings lost. The larger unit is carrying the load.

For example, if the average diameter measured is 39.45" on one assembly then the circumference should be 123 7/8 inches. (Diameter multiplied by 3.14 gives you the circumference). A mate to it should be between 124" and 123 ¾" or the smaller unit will show excessive premature wear.

Tire balance is also critical to tire life as well as ride and handling.  An electronic tire balancer, such as the Hunter Force Match Heavy Duty Balancer  will diagnose if static or dynamic weight to be applied to the assembly will cause a coupled force that will affect the other balance error and determines if the coupled force of either weight added will create another balance issue. If so it will electronically conclude that you only need to apply one (1) weight and sometimes no weight.


Once the vehicle is properly aligned, and tires are matched and balanced, it's important to ensure that tires are and remain properly inflated.

Proper inflation ensures your tires can carry the rated load safely and with minimum rolling resistance.

Traditionally, tires are inflated with compressed air which is easily produced and inexpensive.

But compressed air contains moisture.  And when air containing moisture permeates into the casing the wet air attacks the steel cords causing rust, separation and blowout or just plain flats.  Also wheels rust or oxidize inside from wet air.

And, air leaks out.  Even in brand new tires, air molecules can permeate through the body of a tire.  This pressure loss is estimated at approximately 1 psi per week.  That means that without a rigorous program of checking and maintaining inflation pressures, tires can lose 5% or more of their inflation pressure in a month's time.

Nitrogen inflation is an alternative to air inflation.  Nitrogen has been tested and used since 1998 in South African, European, Canadian and US fleets. Test studies running almost 400 million miles exhibit millions of dollars in savings from the use of this dry inert gas that is 78% of our atmosphere.

Nitrogen has larger molecules than air so permeation through the tire casing is minimal.

In addition, oxygen and moisture are not present which prevents oxidation of tire casing, steel cords and wheels.

Nitrogen produced by generators using membranes such as used by Branick Industries is dried to -70F degrees. Therefore, in fleet operation, no condensation occurs.  Oxidation is minimized and consistent inflation pressure maintained.

Correct inflation pressure reduces rolling resistance and is another step in bringing it to a minimum.  Combined with proper alignment and Force Match Balancing fuel mileage is improved and tread life optimized.


Ongoing Management

All of these maintenance issues are mandatory in bringing your cost of fuel and tires in control. They should be done, in most instances, by your own employees so you have the quality control in your own hands in your own house. These maintenance programs attack the problems from the source, with all records and practices controlled in house. With your Hunter alignment unit there is a work management program which has the "iShop Program" which can store all before and after readings and maintenance records. This information is stored at Hunter in a server located at the factory in St. Louis (Bridgeton) Mo. and can be recalled at any time 24-7.

The first step in reducing your cost of tires and fuel should be implementation of an audit system and then (1) Alignment and (2) Force Match HD Computer Balancing and (3) Nitrogen-installed as soon possible. See www.hunter.com to see this equipment.

In addition, there have been programs developed that monitor air levels from the cab, transfer air into low tires, or send signals to make you aware of low tires, which are all good to use but do not address the root of the problem. After addressing the cause of the problem and getting it to a level of consistency then alarm and audit systems can keep you aware of the "out of the ordinary". The "ordinary" has to be reduced to a low level or "the ordinary will be the consistent" alarm. It would be like putting the cart before the horse.

Some tire manufacturers and prime service providers have audit systems that can get you started in your audit and awareness system. These audit tools will provide you the proof of need. The need will show the equipment that gets the problem under control needs to be in place before initiating the alarm system that makes you aware of what you already know.

Getting Started

1-Your maintenance program should be started with the replacement of tires, realign, balance and inflate with nitrogen, starting with the obviously needed units on both tractors and trailers.

2-Realign and or force match balance any vehicle showing the need.

3-Any new tires should be inflated with nitrogen as mounted and existing units purged and inflated as needed or as time allows.

4-The size and installation of the nitrogen system should be based on your volume needs and the compatible air feed system together, if not already capable. Depending on your fleet size the dollar recovery could be in the $100,000's to the $1,000,000's quickly!!

Often, all equipment and installation costs can be financed so minimal cash outlay is needed. The fleet could stop the hemorrhaging using IRS Rule 179 with regards to leasing, with a $1.00 purchase option at the end of the lease term. This qualifies as a true non-tax lease, not a conditional sales contract.

Tool and equipment providers can survey fleet operations and help identify and size equipment needs as well as demonstrate the technologies.


A comprehensive tire management program that includes Vehicle Alignment, Tire Balancing and Matching and Nitrogen Inflation can have dramatic impact on fleet fuel cost as well as tire expense and help ensure safe, trouble free and profitable operation.

Jim Shirey

Professional Maintenance and Supplies



704-516-3139 or 800-383-480


Jim Shirey has had over 40 years in the automotive and trucking maintenance equipment business.


Professional Maintenance and Supplies, Inc. has been in the service and sales of equipment since 1982 and is a Gold Sponsor of the NCTA Maintenance Council




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