These are the types of questions I asked myself after hearing about the blown steer tire that caused a 2017 Freightliner to cross the median of New Mexico’s Interstate 40 and collide head-on with a Greyhound passenger bus killing eight on board. I had to learn more about truck tires after learning about this tragic accident. Below you’ll see what I found.
These heavy-duty tires are made out of many layers ranging from an inner liner composed of a synthetic rubber to the cap ply that is made of polyester, which prevents tires from overheating and maintains their shape. However, the exact composition of tires will vary depending on the application they were designed for. Long story short, these tires are very complex as many of them have up to seven layers of different materials.
Here’s where things get interesting. I found it very difficult to pin down an approximate amount of miles these commercial tires can run before replacement. There are estimates from as low as 25,000 miles to as high as 75,000 miles. Needless to say, that’s a massive difference! At what point does a trucker know when it is time to replace their tires? Is it going to be at 25,000 miles? How about 50,000 miles? Could it even be at 100,000 miles?
Regular maintenance is recommended to make sure your tires are safe for the road. This includes checking pressure, inspecting tires for gouges or cracks, and repairing or replacing when necessary. Even with regular maintenance and inspection, it is still difficult to determine when a tire is unsafe. I’m sure that I’m not the only one confused about when tractor-trailer tires should be replaced. This is certainly one of the difficulties drivers are facing and have faced for a long time. If you replace the tires too early you risk not getting your money’s worth out of your truck’s very expensive shoes. However, if you wait too long to replace them, then you run the risk of having a potentially deadly blowout, like what happened in New Mexico.
A recent USA Today investigation of port trucking companies in California shows that this could be the case. They found that some trucking companies were forcing their drivers to work dangerously long hours by threatening to let them go, take their trucks, and pocket the money the drivers have paid towards owning them.
Although the USA Today investigation primarily dealt with port truckers being overworked, it does show the extreme lengths that some carriers will go to in order to maximize profits. Therefore, it is not a stretch to think that some employers are putting their drivers on the road with unsafe tires.
Let’s look at one company in particular, JAG Transportation. JAG is the owner of the truck that blew a tire in New Mexico resulting in the fatal and tragic crash. According to the FMCSA’s Safety Measurement System, JAG has had numerous out-of-service violations related to tires. Twice in 2016 they were cited for having “flat tire or fabric exposed.” In 2017, they had “tire-tread and/or sidewall separation” and another “flat tire or fabric exposed.” Moreover, on May 7th of this year, one of their trucks received the violations of “tire-cut exposing ply and/or belt material” and “tire-other tread depth less than 2/32 of inch measured in a major tread groove.” What makes these six tire violations over the past couple of years look even worse is the fact that JAG only has seventeen power units.
To be clear, I am not putting all of the blame on JAG for the deadly Greyhound bus crash as it very well could have been the driver who was at fault. The point is, there are carriers out there that ignore the safety of their drivers so they can make more money. If you are a company driver it may be worth your while to think about the way your carrier treats you. Would they put you out on the road with tires that need replacing? If you answered yes to this question then you might want to find a different carrier that makes the safety of the truck you’re driving a priority.
I recommend using the smartphone app Truck Driver Power. When you’re looking for a fresh start with a different carrier, simply fill out your professional driving profile, turn on the Hire Me Now™ feature, and start receiving real job offers from carriers.
Truck Driver Power wants to hear what you have to say. Let us know how often you replace your tires, what type of maintenance they require, and what you thought of this article on our Twitter, Facebook, or in the comment section below.
(Originally published on Medium)