It is more important today than ever before to make sure that our dollar stretches as far as possible. A proper alignment of your truck will save you money on fuel costs and help you get additional mileage from your tires.
The reduction in operating costs will help you be more competitive in the marketplace and add more dollars to your bottom line.
Millions of dollars are spent on streamlining truck shells, improving drivetrains and designing energy-efficient engines. Yet, many trucking industry professionals neglect one of the most effective ways to reduce operating costs: total wheel alignment.
There are a number of common signs of misalignment, including:
Excessive tire wear.
Increased fuel consumption caused by increased rolling resistance.
Unsafe vehicle handling characteristics.
Driver fatigue caused by constantly correcting the direction of the vehicle.
Premature suspension component wear.
One of the most critical factors in front-end tire wear is drive axle misalignment. (See Diagram 1.) Therefore, performing an alignment only on the steer axle is not enough. A misaligned drive axle affects all the wheels on the vehicle.
It is estimated that over 70 percent of the heavy trucks on the road have tandem axles that are misaligned. To keep the truck going straight, the turning force of the misaligned tandem must be offset by turning the front wheels in the opposite direction. This causes all ten wheels to scrub mile after mile.
Total wheel alignment minimizes rolling resistance caused by misalignment, reducing tire wear and fuel consumption.
Don’t forget trailer alignment. A misaligned trailer forces the driver of a properly aligned tractor to correct for the pull caused by the trailer, resulting in tractor tire wear.
In Diagram 2, the truck has toe misalignment on the drive axle of only 0.10 inches (or 0.06 degrees). If the truck travels 125,000 miles a year, the resulting effect would be equivalent to dragging the tires sideways for 100 miles. Think of the impact of such a small misalignment on tire and fuel consumption and then multiply that by the number of tractors and trailers in your fleet.
According to materials from the Technology and Maintenance Council, a scheduled alignment program will produce an average 30 percent increase in tire mileage and an average two percent increase in fuel economy.
Here’s what total wheel alignment can do for your fleet’s performance:
Reduce tire wear. Improper alignment is a major cause of premature tire wear on all axles. Total alignment sets all wheels parallel and, can add thousands of miles to tire life.
Reduce component wear. When all wheels work with the system, stress on steering and suspension components is drastically reduced.
Spot problems early. An under-vehicle inspection is a critical part of any alignment procedure. This provides an opportunity to spot worn parts before more costly problems arise.
Improve handling. Proper alignment is necessary for optimum handling characteristics - contributing to increased safety and reduced driver fatigue, especially on ice and snow.
Minimize rolling resistance. Total alignment sets all wheels parallel. This works with proper inflation to minimize rolling resistance and improve operating efficiency, which helps reduce fuel consumption.
When it is time to get your truck aligned, many terms are used to describe the process. At times, this may be confusing. Here are most of the terms, separated into three major categories, which you will need to know to be a part of the conversation: