Any change in truck components, including tires and engines, certainly qualifies as a major item affecting operating costs. And, changes are viewed with considerable skepticism until field proven ‘beyond a reasonable doubt.’
Consider that the justice system in the U.S. uses this difficult-to-overcome standard in evaluating criminal cases yet favors a somewhat relaxed standard called “preponderance” in civil cases. Our society places great emphasis on the concept ‘innocent until proven guilty’ and would rather allow truly guilty persons to go free rather than convict one innocent person.
Civil cases, on the other hand, apply the less overwhelming standard of balancing the evidence/information presented, with the nod going to the most convincing, even if the margin is slim.
In this age of extremely competitive business, where success or failure is often no longer between the good and bad but between the better and best, all promising competitive advantages should be explored to improve operating efficiency. Recent industry developments in super wide tire technology might provide good examples.
Dual tires came about more than eight decades ago by default; materials and technology to support growing axle loads with a single tire simply did not exist. Special deep offset wheels had to be designed for rear dual fitments. Front steer axles then had to be widened to allow use of a common wheel on those positions.
The new generation of wide singles would ideally be fitted to zero offset wheels, and axles would be widened by approximately four inches to allow a wider track, resulting in lower bearing loads and improved handling and stability compared to the transition setup used currently. This hasn’t happened to date, since many users aren’t yet comfortable with the option of retrofitting duals.
Consider, also, that imprecise vehicle alignment and frailties of tire designs in early radials, making them susceptible to irregular wear, made the option of tire rotation to different wheel positions attractive as a means to extend take-off mileages. For the most part, we’re beyond that now. Axle-specific tires are widely adopted for most line-haul fleets.
Another issue with earlier attempts to use wide singles in place of duals was highway pavement loading. Some states had loosely worded, confusing and restrictive regulations that were interpreted inconsistently.
Most, if not all, of those issues have been addressed, and operators need not fear their rigs being shut down when crossing state lines. Also, driver acceptance of the new singles has been almost universally positive. This should be viewed as a positive factor, given the well publicized challenges of driver retention.
One often-asked question of super wides is what happens when a single tire loses inflation pressure, leaving the truck without ‘limp home’ capability. Arguably, this should also be the case with duals, since loss of one tire will result in overloading of its mate. However, this situation should become less of a concern with the availability of reliable pressure monitoring devices and real-time tire condition communications.
Overall, modern super wides should result in over-the-road operators considering tires a quality asset to be actively managed using lifecycle cost analysis, instead of having a commodity-purchasing mindset. As with most changes, timing is key. Lots of questions about single wide tires are currently being answered. Gathering quality information and regularly updating it are reliable ways to make sure you aren’t left behind.