It is something every truck driver dreads: having his or her rig taken out of service after a roadside inspection reveals a problem or two. Having to sit idly by waiting for a repair truck to arrive when you could be earning money is enough to drive you crazy. So does it not make sense to do those little things that will reduce the risks of out of service violations? Absolutely. And it starts with tires.
Nearly three-quarters of all violations incurred by American motor carriers every year are the result of simple maintenance issues. Carriers and independent contractors do not keep up on maintenance like they should, allowing a lot of little things to add up until a truck is finally taken off the road. The money lost by way of a parked truck is only compounded by the extra expense of getting it fixed on the road.
Statistically speaking, roughly 10% of all maintenance issues relating to out of service violations are related to tires. Improper inflation, insufficient tread, and weight issues can all be avoided simply by taking the time to pay attention to tires before hitting the road.
Pre-Trip Inspection Tips
Where tires are concerned, the pre-trip inspection is the best time to catch problems. For example, every truck driver was taught in school how to check treads. That should not even be a question during the pre-trip inspection. Drivers should also be on the lookout for fabric or belts exposed on trailer tires as well as any audible air leaks. All of these things act as strikes against the driver during an inspection.
Here’s how to do a proper tire inspection:
- Check for Tread Separation – Tread separation is a sign that tires are nearing their end of life. You should be looking for any separation between the casing of the tire and the tread itself. This is where separation usually occurs, especially with retreaded tires.
- Check for Sidewall Bulges – When there is a bulge in the side wall, there is a good chance the steel belts or cords inside are broken. That means tire failure is imminent. Small bulges are okay with some inspectors, but why take the chance if you don’t have to? Get bulging tires replaced.
- Check Tire Tread – You can check tread depth with a simple gauge that you can buy for next to nothing in any store carrying trucker supplies. Make sure your trends are legal. If they are getting close to the point of not being legal, make sure to get new tires at the next available opportunity. Don’t wait until tires are illegal before doing something about it.
- Check for Obstructions – A pre-trip inspection should include making sure nothing is rubbing against the tires or obstructing their free movement. Any instructions or rubbing objects could cause tire failure down the road.
- Check Weight Limits – Truck drivers should know the weight capacity of the tires they are running. They should then compare how much weight they can legally carry to how much is actually loaded on the trailer. It is illegal for operators or carriers to attempt to compel truck drivers to run above weight, so do not be afraid to put your foot down if a trailer is too heavy.
Last but not least, use an inexpensive tire gauge to check the pressure of all of your tires. Under or over inflation may only result in three points against you, but points can quickly add up to a lot if the majority of your tires are not properly inflated.