Should we inspect our tires for wear and age?

Every fire department, EMS agency or emergency vehicle fleet maintenance should have a solid tire management process in place. This does not require an app or some great piece of software. If checking your wear, pressures and age of your tires is not on your daily or weekly check, go add it now.

According to Chapter 8 in NFPA 1911 Standard for the Inspection, Maintenance, Testing, and Retirement of In-Service Fire Apparatus:

  • 8.3.3* Tires shall be inspected for damage and shall be inflated to the tire manufacturer’s recommended pressure.
  • 8.3.4* The tire load rating shall be checked to verify that it meets or exceeds the GAWR (gross axle weight rating).
  • 8.3.5 The tire speed rating shall be checked to verify that it meets or exceeds the maximum top speed of the apparatus.
  • 8.3.6* Tires shall be replaced at least every 7 years or more frequently when the tread wear exceeds state or federal standards as determined by measuring with a tread depth gauge.

One of the easiest things that can be done to maintain your tires is to make sure they are properly inflated. Use a quality tire pressure gauge, checking tire pressure cannot be done visually. Many believe the correct air pressure is the pressure printed on the tire’s sidewall. This figure is the maximum air pressure in the tire to support the maximum load, not the recommended tire pressure for the apparatus. Insure that your tires are inflated to the manufacturers recommendation based on the axle weight ratings. To obtain the tire size and weight rating, check the truck manufacturer’s data plate, usually on the driver’s door jamb, and look at the information provided.

Some believe a tire blowout results from too much air in a tire; this is not the case. The two most common causes of tire blowout are underinflated or overloaded tires. The structure of the tire does not support the weight of the apparatus; the air inside the tire supports the weight of the apparatus. Underinflated tires present safety concerns for the operator and occupants as well:

  • Possible tire failure
  • Increased stopping distance
  • Unsafe vehicle handling

Other drivetrain mechanical issues may develop prematurely due to under inflated tires. So the bottom line is this, check your fire apparatus or emergency vehicle tires on a regular basis for proper inflation, bulges, cracks, and tears. Most certainly inspect your tires after returning the apparatus from an emergency scene. Shattered glass, debris, heat, and chemicals can all affect your vehicles’ tires.

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