Optimization is key to the transportation industry. From a logistics perspective, trucks should never roll unladen. The bigger truck fill rate, the better. New technologies and driving techniques are developed with the aim of reducing fuel consumption which is good both for the business economy and the environment. Looking at such major factors as fill rate and fuel consumption, is there reason to consider optimization of such a tiny thing as tire pressure? Yes, there is!
Tire pressure vs. cost
Unfortunately, many drivers don’t bother too much about tire pressure. A quick check from time to time seems to be enough for them. This may prove to be a mistake because air pressure is interrelated to the economy. If the tires are not correctly inflated, they will wear much faster and need to be replaced. The cost of tires could be quite substantial and unnecessary wear will reduce the life of the tires and increase the cost accordingly.
Tire pressure vs. safety
The friction in the small footprint of the tire is what is keeping the truck on the road when accelerating, braking and turning. There is a common view that the bigger this footprint, the more friction – and the more safety. Accordingly, many drivers think it is better – and safer – with an under-inflated tire as there is more rubber to the road surface. Although it may appear logical, this is a misconception.
Tires are constructed for optimal performance at a specific pressure. At this pressure, you have the optimal balance between friction and wear. When underinflated, the increased friction and increased sidewall flexing will generate excessive internal heat in the tire, and it will deteriorate – and safety will decrease.
On the other hand, an over-inflated tire will have a smaller footprint, i.e. less friction and the tire center will wear quicker.
Obviously, you should always strive for correct air pressure. However, a few PSI over-inflated is better than an under-inflated tire.
Which is the correct tire pressure?
To optimize the tire pressure in a full vehicle combination will require different pressure in different tires depending on vehicle load and whether they are steering wheels, drive wheels, or trailer wheels. The recommended pressure for a specific tire is found in the manufacturer’s documentation and air pressure tables.
Optimizing tire pressure takes some effort and consideration, but, in the long run, it pays off.
Are there any exemptions?
Yes. No matter how tire manufacturers improve their products, there will always be situations when circumstances put out the rules. For example, on icy roads when tires loose grip air pressure will be of no help. This is where snow chains come in handy.
The wise driver will always optimize tire pressure and be prepared for winter with automatic snow chains. This way you will optimize both tire wear and safety.