Essential Tire Practices Include Making the Right Choices and Performing Effective Maintenance
By Seth Skydel
“Where the rubber meets the road” is a well-worn phrase that implies the point when a theory is put to the test. Interestingly, it was also once an advertising slogan for a major tire manufacturer. For crane operators, however, it also points to the need to focus on making choices that extend a tire’s lifespan, and on maintenance for what can be a high-cost item.
Tire design is all about wear life, rolling resistance, tread durability, traction and handling, related Joe Hughes, urban product category manager at Michelin North America. Speaking during the 2023 EUFMC to utility fleet professionals, he discussed that and other subjects during a presentation on Tire Considerations and Benchmarking - What a Fleet Manager Should Know.
“Design characteristics that are good for some performances and might be detrimental for others so there are natural compromises,” Hughes said. “With that in mind, it is important to remember that tires are developed around applications that dictate which performance characteristics are more important.
“For example, in an on/off road application, traction and the ability to travel through mud and sand is more important that fuel efficiency,” Hughes continued. “This brings in challenges to address when you need off road traction but jump on the road to get back to the yard.”
Retreads also work in tough applications, Hughes noted, including heavy off-road operations like those found in crane operations. His advice: Develop retread specifications that meet your needs, including how many times you want to retread a tire and how old you want your casings to be and still be able to be retreaded.
Another consideration for all tires is to be sure you know about regulatory requirements that may impact your choices. An example could be “inch-width laws” that specify the width of the tire based on the load that it carries.
Hughes also commented on proper tire maintenance practices. “Tires are a safety product and should always be inspected before use,” he said. “This is particularly true in applications where the vehicle could sit, unused, for long periods of time. It is always critical to make sure you have the appropriate pressure in the tire to carry the anticipated load. Ensure there is no visual damage and check the age of the product.
“Fleets need to get the right tires for their applications,” Hughes added, “and make sure the tread was designed for your operation’s needs.”
Major manufacturers of tires for cranes and all types of commercial vehicles have a range of offerings to help address tire supplier and OEM recommendations, and to provide maintenance and roadside assistance services.
Seth Skydel is an editor, writer and subject matter expert with more than 38 years of experience covering commercial asset management subjects in the trucking, transportation, logistics, utility, construction and related markets.