In a recent article prompted by accidents involving tyres I outlined how essential correct tyre pressure is to personal safety. The article generated questions about how to manage tyre pressures. This article discusses the importance of using tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS).
For years industry has kept a close, real time watch on mechanical equipment. Some large equipment manufacturers have more than 250 sensors on their machines, all of which can be read in real time, even in a back office application. The large miners are now using autonomous units which can be controlled from thousands of kilometres away. Yet we maintain our 1950’s outlook on tyres by using a manual inflation pressure gauge. Why?
In the late 1990’s Ford US released the Explorer SUV. It had fitted Firestone tyres for which Ford recommended a particular inflation pressure. After more than 80 fatalities as a result of vehicle rollovers it was deduced that the tyre pressures may have influenced the unfortunate events.
The US Congress agreed introducing the TREAD Act in 2008 mandating the fitting of TPMS in all light passenger vehicles “manufactured” in the US. Even the GM Holden HSV vehicles produced in Australia destined for the US market have TPMS fitted.
The European Union agreed with the intention even though many of Euro manufacturers had already installed indirect TPMS (which operates from the ABS sensors). Korea followed suite as has China.
Australia has a history of under reporting (I agree and over reporting in others!) in many fields. An opinion piece in Mining Australia (6th March) titled “the temptations of incidental reporting” which discussed how the reporting is done and how safety slogans are portrayed and conveyed.
We tend to be bombarded by so many signs, alerts and alarms that we just don’t take any notice. Car alarms being comprehensively ignored, say, in a super market car park?
Whether the vehicle we are travelling in is a car or a haul truck tyres connect it to the road. A tyre requires a set air volume and so pressure to support the load it carries as well as providing the correct profile of the tyre so that it will perform brake steer and accelerate as designed.
If a tyre does not have the appropriate amount of air it will not perform as intended. This was the problem with the Ford Explorers, when a sharp directional change was undertaken the vehicle rolled.
Australia has installed the 5 star safety rating for passenger vehicles which is a fine outcome but it is a cure to an issue not the answer. If a driver understands that a tyre is not correctly inflated there is a good probability of avoiding a manoeuvre the tyre (and so the vehicle) is not capable of. The driver can take corrective actions by either driving slower, inflating the tyre correctly or just not asking it to do what it is not capable of doing.
This is the crux of real time tyre pressure monitoring, identify the issue before it becomes a problem. It is an example of the hierarchy of control where elimination is the prime outcome. The driver realises there is an issue before it becomes a hazard. The 5 star rating is perhaps like PPE, it protects the occupants in an event, which as safety professionals will inform is the least preferred option.
So why has tyre pressure monitoring been viewed as an unwarranted expense? A simple is that tyres work for the great majority of the time. Will they when you absolutely need them?
Tyres have been a grudge purchase for most people. Many buy on price and expect the highest performance. Tyres are one of those items where you get what you pay for. The development costs are huge with moulds for OTR tyres running to USD$1m each. Get them wrong and that’s an expensive mistake. Just because it looks good doesn’t mean it will perform as you require it to.
On road truck tyres are usually second only to fuel in terms of operating expenses for most operators. Buying a cheap tyre may result in increased fuel bills. Does that sound strange? It’s not. It’s about rolling resistance. As anyone who’s had to push their bike home with a flat tyre will remember it’s hard work. A tyre with a higher rolling resistance requires more energy to move it down the road. A poorly designed tyre will not perform as a well-designed tyre will.
Tyre pressures reflect the work a tyre is being asked to perform.
Real time tyre pressure monitoring provides instant feedback on tyre condition. Whether it’s going flat or working too hard it doesn’t matter a tyre will continue operating without complaint until it fails, sometimes catastrophically or else just goes flat. Either way your safety is at risk.
Far too many people have told me “I wish I’d known about this before my accident….” The TPMS shows a visual alert and sounds the alarms if a tyre has an issue. It’s then up to the driver to acknowledge and react accordingly.
Tyres can provide great service and perform to economic expectations only when they are correctly inflated. In today’s electronic world no one wants to put a gauge on a tyre anymore. Pushing a button or having a machine tell us there’s a problem is the norm.
Tyre pressure monitoring means keeping your family safe, delivering your freight safely and on time. Why wait until it happens to you, proactive measures are always the best. Eliminate the potential.