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Tyre Tips - Light Commercial Vans, Trucks and Buses

Tyre Tip 9 - Truck Tyre Testing Assignment

Just recently, after completing an extensive truck tyre testing assignment for one of our overseas partners who supply a proportion of the truck tyres we distribute in here in Australia, I reflected on the disparate requirements for tyres around the world. For instance, what would be perfectly acceptable for, say, treadlife in a European country may not be acceptable in a country such as our own due to the distances we travel and in a harsher environment.


I have always maintained that a truck tyre developed to cope with Australian conditions will generally work in most parts of the world. Maybe it could be a little over-designed for strength and durability plus cost slightly more for what is required for advanced, moderate climate countries, but reliability is the key. Where else can our environmental combination of extreme heat, long distances, indifferent road systems, high average speeds, vehicle combinations, etc. be equaled or exceeded? Sure, other countries can exhibit several aspects of these conditions, but there can't be too many to encompass them all as Australia can. So this is why Australia is regarded as an important development tool by major tyre manufacturers and also vehicle manufacturers. Take a drive up through the Northern Territory during the summer months and count how many world automotive and component companies are represented in various ways ---- if you can find them!


However, each particular country has it's own set of circumstances and conditions that have to be evaluated and, in this litigious day and age, certified by the world manufacturer and supplier. Take for example the European countries such as Germany, France or the United Kingdom. They obviously lead the way in terms of technical innovation and sophistication plus put great emphasis on performance and braking ability, particularly in wet conditions. On the other hand, their road systems are excellent, their speed limits are low, distances traveled are much less than here, but loads can be higher. The USA market is relatively unsophisticated by way of sizes and profiles even to the point of continuing to use 24-inch tyres.


Their road systems again are excellent, with moderate loadings and speeds. Weather conditions can be a factor, with high and low temperatures giving their attendent problems. South America is interesting, where similar climate conditions to here can be encountered, and road quality also similar to here. However, their major tyre size at this stage is the old 11.00R20 tube type size. The Middle East countries operate in hot climates, and in many cases, indifferent roads. Overloading is also encountered and needs to be considered. In countries such as India, China, Malaysia allowance for uncontrolled overloading on poor surfaces need to be accommodated. Humidity can be a factor. Radial tyres are just coming to the fore in some of these third world countries, so education is a necessity.


Our Kiwi neighbours are an entrepreneurial lot, it sometimes seems that any new sizes or profiles available on the world markets will be tried and evaluated in New Zealand. Their winding, twisting roads with abrasive surfaces present another set of challenges to the truck tyre manufacturers.


The tyre designer obviously has access to various methods of counteracting these conflicting characteristics, but he must be careful to ensure that whilst he improves one aspect of the tyre's performance he doesn't compromise another aspect ---- this is always the designers dilemma, particularly when he is trying to develop a tyre to work in all countries. For instance, a tyre developed for wet braking and winter conditions may require incorporation of a more open tread pattern or a softer tread compound. The downside to these methods is that the treadlife may be reduced. In another case, he may wish to counteract high overloading by increasing the bead package of the tyre. This can be at the expense of flexibility and heat generation. For long distance, hot operations the tyre needs to be built as light as possible without compromising its impact strength and durability. The word compromise features highly in a tyre designer´┐Żs vocabulary.


While many of these compromises are narrowing due to the significant advances made in computer techniques (such as finite element analysis), and rubber technology (silica usage), we are still some way from providing a tyre which suits all conditions and all applications in all parts of the world ---- and dare I say it, at an economical price!


Until that time arrives, we need to be very much aware of what we require our truck tyres to do. Our country is quite large, and has many disparate conditions throughout its length and breadth. Most tyre companies offer a range of product to meet these specific requirements, but unless the operators discuss their needs and service aspects with experienced tyre personnel to obtain a recommended version to suit that particular application, then they may well be doing themselves a disservice along with the tyre manufacturer.