HILTON HEAD, N.C. — Multipiece wheel rim accidents have subsided in the commercial truck business, but not so in the mining and off-the-road industries, according to a speaker at the 23rd Annual Clemson Tire Industry Conference.
"Potential fatalities are very high with OTR assemblies," said Tom Klinge, co-founder and CEO of the Klinge Group of companies. The Brisbane, Australia-based operation exports software-based tire management systems to mining and other OTR operations in 25 countries.
Speaking at the March 14-16 meeting in Hilton Head, Klinge said recently fatal accidents occurred at mining sites in Ohio and West Virginia, and such incidents still happen throughout the world.
The traditional lock-ring multipiece rim design for mining tires is to blame, particularly when pieces from different manufacturers´ rims are mixed accidentally, Klinge said. "One lock ring was called ´the suicide ring,´ and it was known as that throughout the mining industry."
There is a three-piece mining rim design that eliminates the lock ring, bolts the pieces down and is vastly safer than the lock-ring design, the executive said.
"People at high levels in the tire industry should apply pressure on rim manufacturers to get rid of lock rings," he said. "Too many people are being killed by them."
Officials of the U.S. Mine Safety and Health Administration couldn´t be reached for comment or statistics on tire and rim-related mining accidents. Multipiece wheel rims, which used to be standard throughout the commercial and OTR industries, were the subject of intense litigation during the 1980s because of explosive separations that resulted in many deaths and injuries.
Such accidents nowadays are almost unknown with commercial truck tries, where the market penetration of single-piece rims is now 95 to 98 percent, according to Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training for the Tire Industry Association. But he said single-piece rim constructions are impossible with tires as massive as mining and OTR tires.
Meanwhile, mining tire and rim accidents rarely are reported even by local media, according to Klinge, especially because the companies involved settle claims either out of court or through workers´ compensation.
Compounding the problems with multipiece rims in the mining industry are a shortage of personnel and a general lack of training, according to Klinge.
"Our industry is short thousands of OTR tire servicers," he said. The shortage in his native Australia is as high as 50 percent.
"I´ve been to mining operations where there were as many as 30 front-office executives, and only a couple of guys to change tires out in the back."
The mining industry isn´t very good at looking after the people who service the tires, according to Klinge, who himself suffered permanent back injuries while changing mining tires in the 1970s. Nor is it particularly good at training them. "I´ve seen people who didn´t know better applying heat to rim assemblies," he said.
Klinge´s "Modern Tire Management" program can not only train workers to change tires, but also help mining companies keep their tires in working order, he said.
"We´ve moved from treating tires as a commodity to treating them as an asset," according to Klinge. He said the world supply of new OTR tires still falls short of demand by 30 to 40 percent.
"There are a number of billion-dollar mining projects on hold throughout the world," he said. "They can get the trucks, but not the tires."
Meanwhile, because of sidewall cuts and other damage, mining tires are being pulled from trucks with 50 percent of their tread still on them, he said.
To alleviate these problems, Klinge is working with TIA to create an OTR tire service training program. TIA expects to roll out this program sometime around the end of 2007, Rohlwing said.