No matter how carefully you drive or how cautiously you choose your routes sooner or later you are going to have to replace your existing truck and trailer tires. If you are an owner operator then you know that this is a very costly event and you do need to take time to select just the right type, brand and design of tire that matches your typical driving experience.
The type of tire that you use should be designed for your type of driving. In addition you need to consider the position on the truck or trailer for the tire. Generally there are three positions that are possible and they are designated as an all positions tire, a drive axle or a trailer axle tire. In addition, since these same tires can be used for different types of vehicles they are also rated for long haul, regional, on/off road, urban and off road. Different tire companies may have different designations, but they will equate to the same purpose.
Steer tires are designed for the tractor and create a smooth ride and easy handling. These are the tires that help you corner and turn while maintaining good traction and grip on the road. Steer tires can actually be used in all positions but they absolutely should be used for those all-important front tractor tires.
The tread design of steer tires is also unique. It is always designed to move water away from the tire in a ribbed type of channel design. This helps with keeping the tire on the road during cornering.
The drive tires are the workhorses of your tires and they need to be designed to provide outstanding traction while also being incredibly durable. These tires, unlike all position or trailer tires, should only be used on the torque axle for maximum efficiency and better fuel economy. However, if you are always on very hard surfaces, never on soft gravel, dirt, sand or snow, and if you typically drive on dry road conditions you may be able to avoid these specialty tires and go with all position options.
You have a range of different options from rib radials to lug or block patterns. Again, for relatively dry driving conditions on hard surfaces rib radials are the best and most efficient choice. Rib radials have a lower rolling resistance, which means they allow you to go further without the need to use fuel to keep moving.
Generally the drive tires will wear the fastest of all the tires on the truck because of the torque and the force that they exert on the road to get the rig moving. This is definitely not the set of tires you want to skimp on when it comes to quality.
Trailer tires are designed to roll freely and resist the pressure and friction during braking. They are also designed with thicker sideways to minimize the risk of damage due to rubbing on the curb as you pull up to park. They are not designed for traction or for torque and should not be used in the steer or drive positions for safety reasons.
Many of the top lines of trailer tires now are designed to be puncture resistant or to have construction options that help then stand up to contact pressure, withstand heat better to help minimize the degradation of the tread over the miles and to also prevent the tire from becoming extremely rigid in cold weather. Puncture resistant trailer tires are also a consideration and are used by many large fleets as a cost and time saving option for long haul routes as well as short deliveries.
While this seems obvious it is critical to make sure that all tires are the same size on your truck and trailer and that they are rated for the size of the load that you are carrying. It is also highly recommended that on a tandem axle if one tire goes flat or needs to be replaced, also change out the remaining tire with that cycle, don't wait to change it out with the other side. This is because when one tire goes flat the remaining tire on that side is carrying all the weight, potentially resulting in structural weakness that may not be obvious from the outside but may lead to another flat just down the road.
Always check the inflation recommendations on the tires and fill up when the tires are cool, before you have driven the truck and trailer. Avoid running with tires that are not inflated to the recommended pressure as this is considered by tire experts to be the most common cause of tire failures on the road.
While there is no hard and fast rule, most truckers will find that all tires will need to be changed out every three to five years. While you can gauge this by the tread and wear it is also a good idea to keep track of the miles and change out tires proactive. Remember that the cost of a flat on the road, especially in bad weather and road conditions, can really add to your tire budget. Always take care of yourself and your safety on the road by having the best tires possible on your truck and trailer.
By Ryan Grifford