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8 common threats to haul truck tires (and how to avoid them)

Updated: Mar 12

Haul truck tires are one of the largest expenses for most mines. This means that improving their lifespan can not only save your mine millions of dollars, but it can also help minimize unexpected downtime caused by damaged truck tires. The average lifespan of a Caterpillar 797 haul truck tire is about 9,000 hours of operation. But a variety of hazards can cut this life span by half or more. At a price per tire of over US$50,000 (which can go dramatically higher when tire shortages occur) and 6 tires per truck, even modest increases in tire life can result in millions of dollars in cost savings. Here are 8 common threats to haul truck tires, and what you can do to minimize them:

1. Sidewall cuts Sidewall damage is one of the leading causes of tire failure and often happens when trucks get too close to berms and high bank faces. These raised surfaces may contain rocks and other hazards that can slash tire sidewalls. Watch for these conditions on narrow haul roads, where trucks operators must steer to the outside edge of the road to pass trucks coming from the opposite direction. Corners are another area where tires can run over berms. Hazards when loading at a shovel can include backing up over spilled material and backing up too far, so the truck’s rear duals are resting upon the edge of the pit face.

2. Running in ruts Running a tire on a rutted road can cut the sidewall and put stress on the carcass when entering and leaving the rut.  Once in the rut, a tire will wear unevenly due to surface variations.  Operators should be encouraged to use different areas within the haul lane to avoid ruts whenever possible.

3. Underinflation Tires that are underinflated experience significant sidewall deflection, especially when the truck is travelling under load. The result is higher tread wear, stress in tread and plies, weakened bonding and increased heat build-up. All of these spell shortened tire life.  Key benefits of proper inflation include providing the tire with maximum ground contact area, optimum sidewall flexibility and reduced heat levels.

4. Excessive speed on rough haul roads Sections of haul road that have a washboard profile can give the truck’s operator a roller-coaster ride, especially if he or she is running over them at high speed. These conditions are also very hard on the sidewalls of the truck’s tires. Too much bouncing may even cause tires to momentarily leave the road surface, further amplifying sidewall flexing. Damage from excessive flexing is not immediately noticeable, but is cumulative and can be hard to spot in its early stages. Excessive speed in corners also has a similar effect – too much stress placed on tire sidewalls.

5. Spilled material on the haul road Haul truck operators should avoid running over any material that has spilled onto the haul road. It can be especially hazardous in the winter, when it can harden, making it a bigger threat to truck tires. When your truck operators see spilled material on the haul road, they should safely maneuver around it and then immediately notify a dispatcher so he or she can send a piece of support equipment to take care of it.

6. Bumper blocks The edge of a concrete bumper block at the mine’s dump pit can be a severe tire hazard. Haul truck operators must do everything they can to avoid making direct contact with it. When backing up to a bumper block or crusher, make certain there is no spillage in the pocket. Backing over spilled material or sitting on top of it when dumping a load can place excessive stress on tires.

7. Windrows Like many of the other hazards we’ve seen, windrows created by normal grader road maintenance can cause sidewall flexing when haul trucks pass over them. Sometimes, straddling a windrow is unavoidable. But when conditions allow, operators should drive on one side of it. If you must cross over one, look for a section that is free of large lumps of material or rocks. If you’re meeting a loaded haul truck which is straddling a windrow, do what you can to assist that operator in avoiding hazardous conditions. Be prepared to yield or stop until they are in the clear and then continue with similar caution.

8. Dry steering This term refers to the practice of turning the haul truck’s front wheels while it is sitting still. This causes excessive forces on the sidewalls of the tires and should be avoided at all costs. The truck should be in motion before the operator turns its front tires.

One final note For tire management to pay off, all haul truck operators must be aware of these hazards and take steps to avoid them. They should also look out for each other. For example, if an operator is approaching a dump pit and notices that a passing haul truck has an underinflated tire, he or she should radio its operator and alert him or her to this condition. Also, mine management needs to make a commitment to keeping haul roads in excellent condition, and to deploy enough support equipment to keep haul roads free of rocks and spilled material, fill in ruts and keep the whole production loop humming smoothly. For more details on how to implement a team-based approach to tire care, check out our Silver Series Tire Care training program. You may also want to read this case history, which describes how one mine increased its average tire life by 20%, for a savings of over US$3 million per year. Interested in other related products? See: Haul Truck Pre-Start Inspection or Emergency Response for Off-Road Heavy Haul Trucks

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