A truck or other heavy vehicle that loses traction not only disrupts operations but can also lead to a dangerous situation. In regions where weather – or other – conditions entails the risk of slippery driving conditions, having some traction aid could be an obvious precaution to secure operation and prevent delays. Although there are similarities with traction aids for passenger cars, there are other requirements for trucks.
As a general concept, the idea of 'traction aid' is quite diverse. Laying logs and stones in front of wheels spinning in the mud off-road can be considered a kind of traction aid. And, advanced computerized systems for preventing wheels losing grip can also be seen as a traction aid. However, there are dedicated tools or systems that are used to keep a heavy vehicle safely on the road i.e., traction aids for trucks.
Traction aids for driving
These traction aids can be used for continuous driving in slippery road conditions, notably on icy roads.
Conventional snow chains
The sturdy, traditional snow chains are mounted on the tire and provide high traction. They are resistant to heavy wear, albeit time-consuming to mount and dismount.
Although not permitted in some countries or regions, automatic sand spreaders are by some considered a convenient traction aid for heavy vehicles. The sandbox automatically distributes sand in front of the tires. The sand will increase traction, and also, a trailer and other vehicles on the road will benefit from the sanded road. However, the sandbox is only effective until empty, and it must be refilled after approx. 1 mile.
Automatic tire chains
Automatic tire chains are engaged and disengaged from the cab while driving. They provide traction equivalent to conventional snow chains.
Winter tires are designed to improve traction by their tread pattern and material composition.
Traction aids to recover when getting stuck
Some traction aids e.g., tire chains, are suitable for driving on icy roads and starting if wheels are spinning. Other aids are in practice only good for starting – or possibly for driving very short distances.
Claw type traction aids
When stuck in e.g. deep snow or mud – typically off-road conditions or when accidentally skidding off the road – snow chains will not be effective. In such a case, claw-like devices of different designs can be mounted to the tire. These 'claws' will provide an increased grip on the soft, slippery surface. However, the bulky claws are not suitable for driving on roads and have to be exchanged for an appropriate aid when reaching the road.
The textile tire socks provide high traction on ice. They are light-weight and easy to put on the tire if stuck with spinning wheels on ice. Since they are made of textile material, they do not withstand wear and tear.
Even though not a purpose made traction aid, a sandbag could be the solution to spinning wheels on ice. Some sand or gravel may increase traction enough to get the vehicle out of the situation.
Increased drive axle pressure
In vehicles with double rear axles, one axle may be lifted. This will increase the pressure on the remaining drive axle and increase traction accordingly. This method is possible to use also when driving; however, due to traffic regulations, there are countries and regions where it is not permitted.
Aids for not losing traction
By some, electronic anti-skid systems are believed to increase traction. This is a true misconception as these systems don't increase traction at all, but rather work in order to distribute torque to the wheels in such a way that they don't slip.
A 4x4 system provides power to all four of a vehicle’s drive wheels. This will not increase traction, but distributing torque to a larger number of wheels will improve maneuverability and reduce the risk of skidding.
An Electronic Stability Programme (ESP) is a computerized control system that prevents the wheels from spinning by applying brakes to individual wheels. It does not increase traction as such.
Browse the free online resource; Traction aids for heavy vehicles, to learn more.