Back in the days of multi-piece (split) rims and tube-type assemblies, the job of “busting tires” was hardly considered skilled labor. Between the swinging of the hammer and the constant bending over to lift the tire and rim off the floor, it was hard work that typically appealed to someone with few options and a strong back.
The job of “tire buster” was neither glamorous nor lucrative, so it was either a last resort or a temporary position until something better came along.
The truck tire service industry wasn’t very focused on training, so the “old joe” method of on-the-job instruction could have a minimally skilled person working with a reasonable degree of proficiency within a week or two. Given the transient nature of tire busters, it wasn’t uncommon to see an entire workforce turn over once or twice a year.
There weren’t any standards to govern the industry at the time, so the industry had a “wild west” mentality that ultimately resulted in a significant number of workplace accidents and injuries.
Shortly after the federal government passed the Occupational Safety and Health Act in 1970, the newly created Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) was established to develop safety standards for American workers.
By the end of the decade, OSHA passed 29 CFR 1910.177 to govern the servicing of single and multi-piece truck tire and rim assemblies. The requirements included mandated training in addition to a chart that showed matching parts for rim bases, side rings, lock rings and flanges.
As a result, accidents became less frequent until tubeless radial truck tires on single-piece rims were introduced and these assemblies almost eliminated them from the national perspective.
While all this was going on, most fleets didn’t even notice. They were unaware that anyone who touches a truck tire must be trained according to OSHA, nor did they care. As long as someone showed up and fixed the tire to get the rig back on the road everyone was happy.
There were no concerns about wheel-offs, zipper ruptures, CSA 2011 or attorney’s looking to cash in on an accident. If the freight moved and the tires held air, life was good.
It’s difficult to pinpoint when everything changed, and some may argue that it hasn’t. But there is no disputing the fact that the trucking industry is much different since the government first decided to regulate the procedures used for servicing tires back in 1979. Most fleets are now aware of their training obligations so they make sure that every employee who touches a truck tire receives the minimum training required by 29 CFR 1910.177.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) works with a lot of these fleets, and as a result of their commitment to education, they have a good degree of confidence that the tires and wheels on their vehicles are properly serviced when they leave the maintenance facility.
What hasn’t changed is the uncertainty regarding tire work that is performed outside the maintenance facility. When the trucks are close to home, and the fleet knows the company they are dealing with, the maintenance department sleeps a little better. In many cases, tire and wheel service that is performed on the road is at least carefully inspected and checked for proper torque immediately upon its return.
It’s reached the point where some fleets won’t allow a tire to be repaired on the road. They will purchase a new tire, and in extreme cases, scrap a perfectly good tire that needs a simple puncture repair simply because they don’t want to take a chance on another repair failure that takes out the mud-flap.
The fact is there are no guarantees in the truck tire service industry. Some service providers will have the people and equipment to do the job the right way and others will still be busting tires.
TMC is dedicated to a single purpose providing maintenance and technology solutions to the trucking industry through education, networking, and standards development. If you're a motor carrier...