TPMS & Your Fleet | Semi Truck Repair
Unless you’ve been living under a very large rock, you’re probably already familiar with TPMS, TPMS products, and their benefits when maintained on commercial tires. You’ve probably got TPMS sensors in your personal vehicle; and if you’ve got any tractors or trailer in your fleet manufactured in ’06 or after, undoubtedly, you’ve got them there too. Since the federal government mandated these systems to be standard on any piece of equipment manufactured after ’06, TPMS is pretty much everywhere by now and for good reason.
At the risk of repeating ourselves for the gazillionth time, we’ll again state the obvious here because it’s relevant: tires are the number two expense a commercial fleet will encounter year after year after year. (YAWN.) Though the benefits of retreading have helped to reduce these costs, commercial truck tires are just. not. cheap.
Yes, road hazards are the biggest cause of tire failure. But road hazards wouldn’t remain such a threat if tires weren’t routinely underinflated. And if we’re being technical, many fleets find that tires are routinely underinflated because drivers aren’t adjusting the psi of their tires when the weight of their load changes significantly. We won’t deny that it seems like a supremely anal retentive thing to make drivers to pay attention to…. but when the cost of a truck tire averages $400 (and bear in mind that’s an average in the true definition of the word) and YOU are the one paying for it, well… wethinks it’s just a no brainer to be vigilant.
Luckily, TPMS not only makes it much easier to be vigilant but also reduces the risk of operator error. (Not that that ever happens, right? :))
TPMS systems work by feeding RF signals from sensors mounted on wheel assemblies to receivers mounted under steer and trailer axles. The sensors monitor both tire pressure and temperature and alert a unit mounted on the dash of the vehicle to any tire position that is running hot or low. Staying on top of tire pressures helps your fleet in a multitude of documented avenues like improving fuel economy, increasing tread life, and protecting the quality of the casing for retreading. And while TPMS systems seem like “set and forget” type of set up, (and for a while they can be) …for “forever” they are not. Depending on which sensor you choose to install, the battery life can last anywhere from 2 to 12 years. Quite the spread, right? You can expect the battery of your garden variety sensor to average about 5 years in perfect circumstances.
Beyond battery replacements, the only other service that TPMS units require is the changing out of their components to protect from metal corrosion and air leakage. And while many argue that the components of a TPMS sensor don’t need to be replaced every time a tire is changed out, OEM advise that TPMS components are “non-reusable parts” and should be changed each time a tire is changed out to ensure efficiency. It may seem excessive,but depending on how much that particular piece of equipment is used, replacing the components at every change is a preemptive way to save time and reduce the risk of tire failure.
So…. what to do if you’re running an older fleet? Install a universal APU on your tractors and trailers and “re-learn” them to your monitor. (This can be done in any tire shop or on your own if you have one of the handy calibration tools.) The upfront cost may seem a little scary but this number is easily eclipsed by the amount of money saved in the reduction of tire costs and maintenance. Tires are already the second largest operating expense. With the technology that is available, there is just no sense in giving them the boost for first place.