HILTON HEAD, S.C. — Companies are beginning to market tire pressure monitoring systems and automatic inflation systems for the truck and commercial tire market, while retailers of auto tires are seeking training to service the devices.
That´s the report from speakers at the annual Clemson Tire Industry Conference, held in March at Hilton Head.
By the end of the year, 7 million vehicles will have some sort of tire pressure monitoring device, a result of a mandate of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, said Kevin Rohlwing, senior vice president of training at the Tire Industry Association. That figure will double by the end of 2008.
Technician training to service the systems among independent tire retailers is "a have and have-not situation," according to Rohlwing. While most of the large tire dealership chains have been very proactive with in-house training, many single-outlet tire stores have yet to see their first tire pressure monitor customer.
"If you don´t know what to look for, it would be very easy to rip through the system and break it," Rohlwing said. "It´s a very sophisticated piece of electronic engineering."
It costs a minimum of $1,000 to buy the equipment you need to service the devices, and that´s a lot of money for a mom-and-pop tire operation, he said. On the other hand, with the sensors costing $40 to $200 a piece, a poorly trained technician can eat up a store´s daily profits in 20 minutes.
Because there is no NHTSA mandate for tire pressure monitoring systems on heavy trucks, there is no great push for truck fleets to adopt the system, and also no plans for TIA to establish a truck training program, according to Peggy Fisher. But an increasing number of fleets are realizing the utility of devices, she said.
Truck drivers generally don´t do pre-trip tire inspections, and many times mechanics do only "bump checks" rather than using a tire gauge, Fisher said. The result is that 44 percent of the truck tires on the road are within 5 psi of the recommended pressure; 4 percent are flat; and 21 percent of dual tires are mismatched in air pressure by more than 5 psi. This creates an incredible waste of tires that fleet managers are anxious to avoid, she said.
Fisher, former president of Roadway Tire Corp., is now president of TireStamp Inc., a tire asset management solutions company. TireStamp sells TireVigil, its own sensing system for trucks.
If tire pressure monitoring is necessary for trucks, automatic tire inflation systems are even more important, according to Al Cohn, director of new market development and engineering support for Pressure Systems International in San Antonio.
Some 90 to 95 percent of the blown-tire "alligators" at the sides of U.S. roadways are caused by underinflation, according to Cohn, former commercial tire chief at Goodyear.
"When you open any trade magazine for the trucking industry, tire inflation is always there," he said. "Inflation is the No. 1 issue facing fleets today."
It takes a long time for a tire technician to manually check all 18 tires on a tractor-trailer, Cohn said. Also, inside dual tires are hard to reach, and gauges may be inaccurate.
PSI´s automatic tire inflation system provides the answer to these problems, Cohn said.