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Getting heavy vehicles safely and promptly to desired destinations across snowy and icy roads can be as easy as the flip of a switch. And even though it is scorching hot outside, it’s never too early to plan for the upcoming winter season.

Automatic snow chain systems assure that any operator is well-equipped for all road conditions. These systems provide utility vehicles and truck fleets with universal snow chains for over the road travel.

With automatic chain systems, there is no longer a need for the driver to get out in dangerous roadside situations to apply manual chains as is the probability of calling a wrecker for a piece of equipment in the ditch.  

“The time savings is great along with the safety when trucks use automatic systems,” said Dave Woolverton of TMS Truck & Bus in Brighton, Colo. “From a safety standpoint you don’t have to get out of your vehicle and worry about oncoming traffic; that’s the biggest thing. Truckers can just hit the switch.”

Drivers can deploy automatic snow and ice chains from a control on the dashboard while the truck is in motion. This easy process is a critical step in making sure that vehicles reach their destination. Since the automatic tire chains can easily be engaged and disengaged right from the driver’s seat, trucks stay on schedule.

“Some of the fleets that are using conventional chains need to stop and think,” Woolverton said. “They need to think about their drivers’ safety, the time, and money spent on these manual duties.”

Many drivers do not want to chain up with manual chains because they are only in slick areas or on a small hill for a brief amount of time, and then they are out of it and don’t need the chains any more. It just doesn’t make sense to put on manual chains for these applications; that is why an automatic system is attractive. It is a quick way to get traction and keep vehicles from getting in trouble.

“I run in the mountains a lot,” said 38-year trucking veteran Rob Courtier of Cheyenne, Wyoming. “Automatic chains provide a piece of mind that they are there and they are going to work when I need them.”

“The idea is to keep the chains on the tire as short as possible only when they are needed. Tires take a beating if the chains run too long on them.”

One manufacturer of automatic systems is RUD Chain. The company’s Rotogrip system is designed for a wide range of vehicles and works equally as well in reverse as it does moving forward with traction provided at speeds as low as 4 to 5 mph.

For example, the 18-strand Rotogrip chain wheel system “throws” six bundles of three chain strands under the tire so that when it begins to spin, there are three pieces of chains under the tire. This process all works off of centrifugal force. The chains are needed most at lower speeds, when drivers are trying to find traction. Chains are not intended to be used at speeds in excess of 30 mph.

The RUD chain wheel design consists of three separate parts – the chain plate, the contact ring, and the aluminum carrier wheel. This system is designed so that they come apart in pieces. The chain wheel is the part that does all the work in this system.

Another aspect of the RUD chain wheel is that it has a flat surface on the wheel that contacts the drive tire. This provides a larger surface and much less slippage and greater contact to the drive tire, which affects the way the chain lifts.

The universal mounting system allows Rotogrip to be easily adjusted to fit a wide range of vehicles and can easily be installed in just a few hours.

“This is the fourth year that I have been using Rotogrip chains,” Courtier said. “RUD systems are easy to put on and easy to maintain. It is one of the best pieces of equipment that I have ever put on a truck.”

Any utility truck or fleet truck can utilize the Rotogrip Systems. The Rotogrip Classic (full-size) system is primarily used on heavier commercial vehicles with tire sizes 22.5 and up. The choice of six-, 10- or 18-strand chain wheels is frequently used with the larger trucks. The 18-strand chain wheel provides smooth running and operates well at lower speeds.

The Rotogrip Light Truck system is the solution for light commercial vehicles that do not have an on-board air supply. The design offers a unique cable pull-down system allowing either air or electric activation powered by the vehicles electric supply. An eight-strand chain wheel is most commonly used for this system on trucks with 19.5 size tires and smaller.

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