Why spec lighter weight aluminum wheels?

Spec’ing lighter weight aluminum wheels is a simple solution to increasing a rig’s overall fuel efficiency and, oftentimes more importantly, improving its freight-carrying capacity. As gas and diesel prices continue to rise and freight efficiency becomes more critical, the urgency for fleets to find solutions that contribute to fuel economy, as well as increase productivity, becomes greater than ever.

Not only lighter in weight than steel, aluminum wheels are stronger and more durable to increase freight capacity and improve maintenance savings for increased productivity and, ultimately, lower lifetime operating costs.


There are many sustainability benefits when spec’ing lighter weight aluminum wheels, including supporting the EPA SmartWay Transport Partnership, which helps freight companies improve fuel efficiency, increase environmental performance and increase supply chain sustainability.

The EPA has determined that certain wide base tire models can reduce NOx emissions and fuel use by 3 percent or more, relative to the best-selling new tires for linehaul trucks, when used on all five axles on long-haul Class 8 trucks.

Fleets converting to wide base tires for improved rolling resistance as part of SmartWay can combine the savings with lighter, more efficient aluminum wide base wheels.

Low rolling resistance tires can be used with lower-weight aluminum wheels to further improve fuel savings. More importantly, these environmental benefits are also cost effective.

Since you can’t have a tire without a wheel, pairing any SmartWay certified tire with a lightweight aluminum wheel achieves maximum benefits.

Fuel Efficiency and Weight Savings

Fleet managers and owner operators should consider overall lifetime operating costs when spec’ing wheels on new equipment since aluminum wheels can improve quick and continuous “payback” in fuel savings or freight productivity combined with maintenance savings.

For added fuel savings, wheel manufacturers offer the 22.5 x 14-inch wide base aluminum wheel option. Fleets have reported experiencing 3 percent to 4 percent fuel savings with a wide base wheel and tire combination.

Aluminum wide base wheels, such as Alcoa’s new 14-inch wide base wheels, are not only the lightest on the market - weighing only 58 pounds per wheel, but they also offer enhanced image, as well as solutions to achieving sustainability goals.

Simply switching single steel 22.5-inch wheels to 14-inch wide base Alcoa aluminum wheels reduces the weight of an 18-wheeler by nearly 1,400 pounds. The upgrade takes advantage of this significant weight reduction coupled with the increased savings from lower resistance wide base tires to further improve fuel efficiency.

Alcoa wheels’ strength, durability and low weight deliver environmental advantages to complement their financial benefits. With larger payloads due to the weight savings, trips are reduced, and, since Alcoa wheels are infinitely recyclable, they’ll never see a landfill.

Alcoa’s 14-inch wide base aluminum wheels are available in 0-inch, 1-inch and 2-inch offsets to fit all axle types. Each wheel roll stamp contains “0-inch Offset This Side Out” or “2-inch Outset This Side Out” to indicate offset mounting position.

In addition, Alcoa locates the roll stamp, valve hole and valve stem direction on all wheels to ensure proper installation for all axle types.

Enhanced Image

Aluminum wheels do not require the continuous refurbishing for which steel wheels do, such as removing rust, paint, etc. In addition, aluminum wheels are not painted like steel wheels, ultimately eliminating the need for spray paint and touch up.

In harsh environments, fleets are required to dismount tires, paint or touch up and remount tires every year in order to avoid that common rusty appearance found on so many steel wheels.

Therefore, additional maintenance can result in higher overall lifetime costs and aluminum wheels can improve the appearance of the truck or fleet over a rusty or paint-chipped steel wheel.

By their very nature, wheels spend their entire lives in a hostile environment. Several aluminum wheel manufacturers also offer additional options for further lowering operating and maintenance costs.

Alcoa Dura-Bright wheels clean easily with mild soap and water for an everlasting wheel shine.

Dura-Bright is a patented surface treatment integral to the production process of the aluminum wheel so it’s durable from the start and built to last. The comprehensive production process ensures that Dura-Bright wheels will never crack, chip or corrode.

Since Dura-Bright wheels don’t need to be polished, they work hard to lower maintenance costs since they shine up quickly with a simple scrub and keep the vehicle looking newer for longer.


When considering wheel choices, value should always be the goal.

Aluminum wheels present lifetime advantages over steel wheels and, although steel wheels are less expensive at the time of purchase, they become more high-maintenance over time.

Wheel decisions come down to short-term versus long-term planning and navigating the available choices to ensure value over the life of the equipment.


Brian Thomas, Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products marketing communications specialist, manages marketing communications efforts for Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products. Alcoa Wheel and Transportation Products, headquartered in Cleveland, OH, leads the commercial vehicle, automotive and defense markets with products used in a range of applications including forged aluminum wheels and premium products such as Dura-Bright, Dura-Flange, LvL ONE and M-Series wheels for medium duty trucks. www.alcoa.com/alcoawheels.