CSA Proof Your Rig
The stop-tail-turn lamp in the Grote CSA light kit is an LED model with a much longer life expectancy than an incandescent. Many fleets have attempted to minimize outages of lights on the difficult-to-access top rail of the trailer by installing LEDs, says Grote National Accounts Manager Mark Blackford. LEDs are also used in other hard-to-reach areas of the truck.
Owner-operator Bill Taylor, who drives team with his wife, Robyn, leased to FedEx Ground, has outfitted their 2007 Western Star 4964EX with LEDs. “My light problems are minimal,” he says, except for occasional corrosion in the plugs, which he’ll replace. He carries spare headlights, among other lights, in his bag of replacement parts for “all the normal stuff that goes out,” he says.
Taylor consults regularly with ATBS Maintenance Management Consultant Bill McClusky, who advises ATBS owner-operator clients to carry electrical contact cleaner and dielectric grease to prevent corrosion. “Say you’ve got a marker light and connection corroding,” McClusky says. “You can dip them in that and keep them from becoming corroded.”
Owner-operator Taylor ran out of luck on a Friday the 13th in Kingman, Ariz., where his truck sustained a steer tire blowout. It was a freak incident for Taylor, who calls himself a “stickler” on preventive maintenance. “A roadside breakdown can absolutely cost you everything you’ve made this week and the following,” he says. The Jan. 13 blowout cost him $1,400.
Closely monitoring tire condition will not alleviate every tire-related emergency, but it will catch many and pay off in other ways. Many of the most common tire violations carry a high severity weighting in the Vehicle Maintenance BASIC’s safety ranking system, meaning they will disproportionately impact your or your carrier’s overall CSA ranking. Among the top 12 most common violations, only one – having tire tread depth less than 2⁄32-inch – involved tires. But operators cited for it racked up a hefty eight negative points toward their carriers’ or their own Vehicle Maintenance BASIC ranking.
Furthermore, if you narrow the list to just out-of-service violations, three relate directly to tires, says J.J. Keller and Associates’ Thomas Bray, who supplied the list of the top 2011 violations for this article.
Out-of-service violations each carry an extra 2 CSA points, making that easily monitored tread depth infraction worth 30 points for the first six months after the violation was incurred if it puts you out of service. That’s because violation severity weights are multiplied by three for the first six months. In this case, that’s 10 points (8 plus 2 for an out-of-service violation) times 3. That violation will hit you with a weight in Vehicle Maintenance equal to what a reckless driving charge will get you in the Unsafe Driving BASIC, clear evidence FMCSA takes tire problems seriously.
Given that kind of risk, it’s a good idea to carry a plug kit and use it not just for a flat tire, but for fixing a slow leak. This is OK for an emergency patch, though to prevent moisture from corroding the tire’s belts, interior sealing of the puncture should be performed within days.
It’s also wise to carry pressure and tread depth gauges on the road and use them regularly during pretrip inspections. Zehrer is considering going beyond that: “I think the next thing I’ll do is get one of those tire pressure monitoring systems that monitor pressure in real time. If you get 15 to 20 percent off on a dual, inspectors can write you up for that.” If you enjoy the regularity of pulling your own trailer, it can be worth installing such systems to reduce time spent checking tire pressure and to alert you to a dangerous drop in pressure.
The PressurePro system is available with automated drop-and-hook capabilities for connections with multiple trailers. “We give you 100 percent pressure monitoring,” says Duane Sprague of PressurePro, “and about 99 percent of tire issues are related to pressure correction.” Other systems are the Bendix SmarTire system and one from Esco.
Zehrer priced these systems for 18 wheels at around $1,000. Sprague says the PressurePro system costs about $1,100.
For more such products, find the “Dynamic dozen” feature via digitalmagazinetechnology.com/current/overdrive. Select the September 2009 issue via the issues tab.