How to get the most out of those round and black things

Truck tires represent a significant investment for over-the-road fleets. It is important for fleets to optimize their “tire returns” by engaging in regular maintenance practices. Here are some essential practices that should be part of every fleet maintenance program.

Air Pressure Maintenance

Maintaining correct inflation pressure is the single most important maintenance practice that a fleet can employ to positively impact tire wear, casing life and overall tire performance.

Both overinflation and underinflation can change a tire’s footprint, making it susceptible to irregular wear and loss of traction. Although overinflation can create a handful of issues, including a harsh ride, underinflation can create a number of more serious problems that can cost a fleet time and money.

Since the air inside the tire carries the truck’s load, underinflation causes the tire to flex more as it rolls down the highway, which results in internal heat build-up. Excessive heat, in turn, can cause a tire’s components to deteriorate.

Incorrect inflation also hurts fuel economy since underinflated tires force truck engines to work harder. Tires are designed to run at specific pressures based on the load they are carrying. Commercial tire dealers can help fleets determine the correct pressure for all of their tires. Helpful load and inflation information also can be found at

Goodyear recommends that fleets check inflation pressure levels at least once a week.

Vehicle Alignment

Keeping a truck properly aligned may seem like a costly thing, but it’s an investment that can pay big dividends when it comes to achieving longer tire life. Over time, a regular alignment program can boost tire mileage and reduce the occurrence of irregular tread wear.

When thinking about alignments, keep in mind that a traditional front-end alignment isn’t always enough. Drive axles must be brought into alignment, too, making sure they are perpendicular to the chassis and in the case of tandem axles, parallel to each other.

Truck misalignment can impact fuel economy, too. If any of the wheels on an 18-wheel tractor trailer are not in alignment, the total drag on the vehicle increases. When the tractor and trailer are not tracking parallel to the direction of travel, aerodynamic drag will increase.

Misalignment is not a condition that corrects itself. An improperly aligned truck requires expert care.

Visual/Tactile Inspection

Regular visual and tactile inspections of a truck tire can provide a lot of useful information about its condition. Things to check for include unusual wear patterns like feathering and cupping.

It’s really important to make immediate note of wear patterns. If detected early enough, they can be countered or corrected to help extend tire life.

A tactile examination – while looking for cuts, cracks, blisters and bulges – can also yield useful information.

If you aren’t sure about abnormal wear patterns and other things you discover during your inspection, don’t hesitate to contact a commercial tire dealer for expert advice. The maintenance practices listed above require varying investments of time and resources, but they can benefit fleets in real, measurable ways.

Brian Buckham is the marketing manager for Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems, which offers the Total Package Solution of industry-leading tires, services and profitability tools to help commercial trucking fleets lower their total cost of ownership.