Every Drop Counts
Your tires can save you fuel dollars
By Diane Mettler
Today, more than ever, conserving fuel where possible has a
direct effect on a company’s bottom line.
There are numerous ways to minimize fuel consumption, but
one that is often overlooked is the tire — whether on a skidder or
a logging truck.
“Any time we try to economize on fuel [through tire usage],
our first step is to minimize slippage,” says Wayne Birkenholz,
manager of field engineering for Firestone. Several ways operators
can control slippage include focusing on at the tire’s footprint,
inflation and alignment.
Footprint & Traction
Birkenholz says that the tire’s footprint has a direct bearing on
fuel consumption: “With larger tires, you have a larger footprint.
Whether it's overall diameter or tire width, or adding duals, with
a larger footprint you have less slippage and better fuel consumption.”
To increase traction, operators should also consider possibly
using chains if necessary and reducing overloading.
Tires should also be routinely checked to insure they’re
aligned. Research has shown that even minor misalignments can
affect rolling resistance and cause extra fuel usage.
It’s been reported that Americans could save four million gallons
of fuel a day with properly inflated tires. Some may argue
that statistic is high, but tire manufacturers are all in agreement
that maintaining proper inflation pressure plays a pivotal role
in lowering fuel consumption.
“The forest industry is almost exclusively on bias-ply tires. If
underinflated, a bias-ply tire has increased rolling resistance. It
doesn’t like to flex — it uses more energy,” says Birkenholz. “And
if we overinflate that same tire, we’re reducing the size of the
footprint, which leads to more slippage and lower fuel economy.”
Tires can lose one or two pounds of air per month in cool
weather and even more in warmer weather.
“Inflation pressures are affected by changes in ambient temperatures,”
says Birkenholz. “The rule of thumb is a 1 degree change in
pressure for every 10 degree change in temperature. We need to
check and adjust inflation pressures as winter approaches.”
Operators should continually check their tire pressure to insure
it’s set correctly based on the tire and load to optimize tire performance.
For determining proper inflation, operators should consult
the manufacturer’s recommendations. If that’s not available, Firestone
offers an online solution. “Anyone can log on to www.firestoneag.
com and go to ‘tire finder.’ There we have a Load and
Inflation Tables tab at the bottom of the page,” says Birkenholz.
There are added benefits to keeping tires properly inflated —
it can also result in less tread wear, tire separation, rim slip, leaks,
and tube damage. Any of these can lead to downtime, service
calls, repairs, and unexpected tire and tube purchases.
Tires may only play a small role in keeping fuel prices down,
but it’s an important one. Just these few easy steps can make a
big difference at the gas tank.
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