Tire Tactics: Tire Training

Working in the tire shop is undoubtedly one of the most least-desired jobs in any fleet. The work is dirty, physical and monotonous, so it takes a special type of person to make it a career.

Too many people look down on the “tire guys” because it doesn’t take a significant amount of training to become proficient. But make no mistake, it does take training to service truck tire and wheel assemblies and it’s actually required by law in most instances.

Every worker in the United States and Canada is covered by some type of occupational or workplace safety legislation designed to protect them from injury. Regardless of whether it’s federal, state or provincial regulations, they all have “general duty” clauses that more or less say every employer must provide a safe workplace for every employee. In other words, if there is no regulation that specifically applies to the job in question, the employer is still expected to identify the hazards in the workplace so the necessary training and/or personal protective equipment can be provided.

When it comes to the servicing of truck tires and wheels, the governing body typically goes beyond the “general duty” to create specific requirements to cover the demounting, mounting, inflating, deflating, installing, removing or handling of the assemblies. Here are some brief definitions for each term:

Demounting - Physically removing the tire from the rim with tire irons or a machine.

Mounting - Physically installing the tire on the rim with tire irons or a machine.

Inflating - Adding air to the tire and wheel assembly after mounting or during a pressure adjustment.

Deflating - Removing air from the tire by depressing or removing the valve core in the valve stem.

Installing - Attaching the inflated tire and wheel assembly to the end of the axle with flange nuts, cap nuts or lug nuts and wedges.

Removing - Removing the flange nuts, cap nuts or lug nuts and wedges so the inflated tire and wheel assembly can be removed from the end of the axle.

Handling - Physically moving an inflated tire and wheel assembly when it’s in the process of demounting, mounting, installing or removing.

While there are some exceptions for federal workers and public employees in certain states, everyone in the United States that touches an inflated truck tire is governed by Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Regulation 29 CFR 1910.177.

For those that want to see all of the standards for servicing multi-piece and single piece rim wheels, a copy of this legislation can be found at http://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=STANDARDS&p_id=9825.

Here are some of the regulation’s highlights regarding employee training. Under letter (b) for “Definitions,” the word “service” or “servicing” is defined as “the mounting and demounting of rim wheels, and related activities such as inflating, deflating, installing, removing, and handling.”

Paragraph (c) of 1910.177 addresses employee training and states: “The employer shall provide a program to train all employees who service rim wheels in the hazards involved in servicing those rim wheels and the safety procedures to be followed.” It goes on to say: “The employer shall assure that no employee services any rim wheel unless the employee has been trained and instructed in correct procedures of servicing the type of wheel being serviced, and in the safe operating procedures described in paragraphs (f) and (g) of this section.”

The same paragraph includes the minimum requirements for the training program and also requires the employee to demonstrate specific tasks related to the servicing of multi-piece and single-piece tire and wheel assemblies. Finally, the employer must “evaluate each employee’s ability to perform these tasks and to service rim wheels safely, and shall provide additional training as necessary to assure that each employee maintains his or her proficiency.”

Since 1997, Tire Industry Association (TIA) has trained and/or certified more than 50,000 industry professionals on OSHA Regulation 1910.177 and other industry guidelines. However, there are still tens if not hundreds of thousands of mechanics, tire technicians and maintenance personnel that are “servicing” tires without the required training.

The lack of training in the tire industry is so significant that it led the province of Ontario, Canada, to require a provincial certification for every technician that installs a truck tire on a vehicle.

Truck tire and wheel work can be extremely dangerous if proper procedures are not followed during every step of the process. Technicians who are removing and installing inflated radial truck tires must know the signs of a zipper rupture so they can protect themselves from a potentially fatal blast of air.

On the other hand, the technicians that install the inflated assemblies on a vehicle must understand the steps that are necessary to create sufficient clamping force at the recommended torque for the fasteners. If the procedures are not followed, an inflated tire and wheel can become loose and eventually separate from the vehicle causing catastrophic damage to anything in its path.

Those who say truck tire work requires minimal training may be technically correct, but the federally-required training that they must receive might save their life or the life of others. And make no mistake, if a tire and wheel assembly causes any type of accident, the qualifications for the technicians who “serviced” the tire always come into play. The plaintiff will produce an OSHA regulation 29 CFR 1910.177 that clearly states the technicians who removed, deflated, demounted, mounted, inflated, handled and/or installed the tire must have proof that they completed the required training.

Whether it’s a copy of the regulation, the OSHA wall charts and a rim manual with a signed and dated sign-in sheet for every employee or certificates from TIA, the fleet must prove that each employee completed a training program that meets the minimum requirements established in the standard.

The best part is it doesn’t have to cost the fleet a dime. The regulation is available online for free and the other two components can typically be found at the wheel or rim supplier for little to no cost. Someone just has to read the standard and design a training program that meets the minimum requirements.

Keep in mind, if a fleet chooses to design their own program and an OSHA investigation ever occurs as the result of an accident, the content and structure will be very thoroughly analyzed for compliance.

Back in 1997, TIA started the Commercial Tire Service Program to help truck tire dealers comply with OSHA regulations and improve the level of service/safety. Over the years, TIA has kept seeing more interest from fleets that do some degree of tire work, so TIA developed the Fleet Tire Service OSHA Compliance Training Program.

It’s important to note that this program is not a pencil-whip one hour video and quiz. All TIA programs are designed to identify the major hazards and outline the step-by-step procedures that must be followed when “servicing” truck tires and wheels.

The Fleet Tire Service OSHA Compliance Training program is easily a four-hour training program that includes a lesson plan for the instructor and individual workbooks that come with Certificates of Completion for those that pass the exam.

Safety will always be the top priority for TIA training programs. TIA’s goal is to protect the technicians when they are working in the shop as well as the motorists on the highways by teaching the technicians to follow the proper procedures for “servicing” truck tires.

It’s neither cheap nor easy, but it is highly effective and guaranteed to change the way technicians “service” single- and multi-piece wheel assemblies. And, it’s been found to exceed the minimum requirements after multiple OSHA investigations, so TIA is confident the latest version of the training program will provide even more protection for fleets that “service” truck tires.

Those interested in OSHA compliance training can contact Chris Bell, TIA’s director of training, at 800-876-8372 ext. 106 or cbell@tireindustry.org.

The Tire Industry Association (TIA) is an international association representing all segments of the tire industry, including those that manufacture, repair, recycle, sell, service or use new or retreaded tires, and also those suppliers or individuals who furnish equipment, material or services to the industry. TIA was formed by the July 2002 merger of the International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA) and the Tire Association of North America (TANA). TIA’s main office is in Bowie, MD. The association has more than 6,000 current members.