The CSIs in the Tire Shop #technogeek

The CSIs in the Tire Shop #technogeek

Our guest writer Bob Rutherford is back this week, along with a new hashtag (#technogeek), to talk technical about the CSIs in the Tire Shop.

At the last TMC meeting there was a lively discussion about the shock absorber and the role it plays in vehicle safety. As with most things trucking related, correct answers can be hard to come by. This is one example. The answer is totally dependent on what type of suspension system the shock has been incorporated into. 

From the textbook* on the subject, here are the various categories of suspensions: 

  Leaf spring 

  Equalizer beam:  leaf spring and solid rubber spring 

  Rubber block and torsion bar 

  Air spring:  pneumatic – only or the combination of pneumatic/leaf spring 

*Above from page 814 fifth edition Heavy Duty Truck Systems by Sean Bennett 

This white paper is concerned with only the air spring only system at this time (in bold above). The reason for this is explained in detail on page 826 about the air spring only system: 

“The primary disadvantage of the air spring is a ZERO ability to dampen suspension oscillations. For this reason, they use auxiliary dampening mechanisms such as shock absorbers.” 

Further research needs to be conducted to draw conclusions about the role of the shock in the other suspension systems listed above. One thing that is known for sure, a monoleaf spring design is very dependent on a working shock absorber as opposed to the multi-leaf spring packs have a self-damping capacity. It looks like the monoleaf design is gaining in popularity for the advertised weight savings of up to eighty-five pounds in some applications.

The more leaf springs in a spring pack the more self-damping against suspension oscillation the system will have. This reduces the need for a working shock absorber in this type of system.  

My conclusion is that on the air spring (AKA air ride) system the lowly shock has been crowned the King of Safety and needs to be recognized as such by all concerned with safety. A properly functioning shock can make the difference between a tire having the proper footprint or merely only having the equivalent of a toe print on the pavement. 

From a braking standpoint, how good is the braking system if the tires are rebounding off the pavement because the shock is worn-out? The shock is the key to keeping the tires on the road. 

Based on comments received on my prior published works I know many in the trucking industry think a shock, even on an air ride system, is not a key safety component. I am sure this is because in their mind’s eye they see an 80,000 GVW just bouncing down the interstate without a care in the world. I don’t look at that scenario; I see the last thirty seconds of an accident where a distracted driver cuts off the big rig and the driver is jamming on the brakes and turning the steering wheel with all the might the driver can muster. At that exact moment, the shocks had better be keeping the biggest and baddest tire footprint on the highway. 

So why would a truck driver drive on bad shocks? As stated, when I quoted the list of suspension systems, if the truck driver and mechanics were used to a vehicle with a leaf spring suspension, maybe worn shocks were never an issue; and that could be a very big “were never an issue.” 

In my research I have found that many tire dealers are not in the shock business and actually benefit in more tire sales when a customer brings back a cupping tire that is not covered under warranty because of a bad shock, other suspension problem, or an out-of-balance wheel end assembly. 

I have found those tire shops that see the future are using the ABC’S system (explained below) for wheel end management and so are fighting an uphill battle. 

Many drivers see a conversation in a tire shop with a CSI tone as the tire shop attempting to pull off a dreaded up sell of an unnecessary shock absorber just to pad the bill. 

Explaining the ABC’S and the CSI conversational tone with the truck owner 

It should be no mystery to anyone who has watched TV during this decade that CSI is short for Crime Scene Investigators. The ABC’S will be explained next. 

Michelin Tire Company has been distributing tire wear analysis charts to tire shops for years. The charts are titled “The Usual Suspects.”  I assume (and hope to verify someday) that someone in the Michelin marketing department saw the relationship between a tire that is dead on arrival (DOA) that like the TV show, there are always certain suspects that the death of the tire can be pinned on. 

The premise of the movie is that every time there was a crime they would round up the usual suspects, perform a crime scene investigation and figure out who done it. 

It is to the advantage of tire manufacturers to showcase the usual suspects as a troubleshooting tool for several reasons. First, they don’t have to warrant the tire and second, they might solve the mystery and have a happy customer in the future. 

I named the usual suspects the ABC’S gang. It is up to someone in the tire shop to look at the tire corpse and figure out who done it. The simple version of the gang members: 

  • Air pressure is not correct. 
    • Alignment issues 
    • Balance issues 
    • Bearing issues 
  • Centering/mounting issues 
    • Shocks & suspension issues 

It is my belief that every tire shop should have a whiteboard near the usual suspects’ chart and use it to explain what happened to the tire. 

I think every tire shop should have a whiteboard to help communicate with the driver about the wheel end system. The whiteboard could start out like the illustration, then be erased, to explain the Usual Suspects chart as it relates to the tire that arrived dead on arrival (DOA). 

As far as explaining that a shock needs to be replaced for safety reasons, the following steps need to be considered. 

First – Know how to identify an air ride suspension that needs good shocks. 

Second – Every new tire that was replaced because it was worn-out should have a new shock, again, depending on the suspension system.

Third – Further research into the cupping issue needs to be done. I think this can be a big tipoff that the shock was not replaced or there is some other unsafe condition, such as an out-of-balance wheel end that is not allowing the tire to have the proper footprint as it rotates down the highway. 

Fourth – I believe once the word is out, most tire shops will be interested in implementing the ABC’S and CSI system for their customers; the problem will solve itself.

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Navigating the complexities of the truck driver shortage

Navigating the complexities of the truck driver shortage

Bob Rutherford is a 50-year veteran of the trucking industry. Thirty of those years were as a member of the TMC where he earned both the Silver Spark Plug and Recognized Associate awards for his contributions to the industry. He is also an Ambassador for the Conference. Today he shares a paper by John E. Dorer, “Navigating the complexities of the truck driver shortage.”

The powerful brand of CCJ reaches 96,500 subscribers within the freight transport business. Many of these are the fleet executives and managers that have the buying power to grow your business. This multi-channel brand allows for repeated impressions in effective formats.

Navigating the complexities of the truck driver shortage

A Paper by John E. Dorer

Courtesy of Bob Rutherford of CCJ.

The trucking industry, an essential backbone of the U.S. economy, faces an ongoing critical challenge: a significant shortage of drivers.

This shortage — 60,000 as estimated by the American Trucking Associations — is not just a transient issue. It has profound implications on the supply chain, affecting everything from the availability of everyday consumer goods to the stability of national economic growth.

The industry, alongside government entities, is implementing or exploring a variety of strategies to fill the gap, from recruiting a more diverse range of employees and offering specialized training to technological advancements such as autonomous trucks and government policy changes like more flexible hours of service.

Why the shortage?

The trucking industry’s labor challenge is multifaceted, stemming from a combination of demographic, economic and regulatory factors.

Aging workforce
One of the primary reasons for the driver shortage is the aging demographic of current drivers. Many are nearing retirement age, and there aren’t enough younger drivers entering the profession to replace them. At 46, according to the American Trucking Associations, or as high as 60 in CCJ’s 2023 “What Drivers Want” survey, the average age of a commercial truck driver in the U.S. is significantly higher than that of the overall workforce, 42, indicating a generational gap in the industry.

Challenges in attracting younger drivers
A variety of factors have made it a challenge for the industry to attract younger drivers. The demanding nature of the job, long hours away from home, and the perception of truck driving as a less desirable career path contribute to the issue. Moreover, federal regulations require commercial truck drivers to be at least 21 years old to drive interstate, which limits the pool of younger drivers who can enter the field immediately after high school.

Impact of COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic had a significant impact on the trucking industry. Many drivers were laid off or chose to leave due to health concerns or to care for family members. The pandemic also disrupted training and licensing processes, creating a backlog of new drivers trying to enter the industry.

Regulatory changes and implications
Over the years, regulatory changes have also affected the trucking industry. Hours-of-service regulations, designed to ensure drivers get adequate rest, also limit the number of hours a driver can work, impacting earnings and job appeal. Compliance with these and other regulations like the electronic logging device mandate add to the operational complexities for drivers and companies.

Economic factors
Economic factors play a significant role in the labor shortage. While truck driving can be lucrative, the pay structure (often based on miles driven or hours worked) and the lack of regular home time can be deterrents. The rising cost of living and stagnant wages in certain segments of the industry also contribute to the difficulty in attracting and retaining drivers.

Impact of the shortage

The truck driver shortage has wide-reaching implications that affect not just the industry, but the entire supply chain and U.S. economy.

Supply chain disruptions
The shortage directly affects the efficiency of the supply chain. With fewer drivers available, there’s a delay in the transportation of goods. This leads to longer delivery times and can cause shortages of products in various sectors, from retail to manufacturing. The just-in-time delivery model, which many businesses rely on, is particularly vulnerable to such disruptions.

Increased costs for consumers
The inefficiencies in the supply chain inevitably lead to increased costs, which are often passed on to consumers. The shortage of drivers can lead to higher shipping rates, and these increased costs can result in higher prices for goods. This inflationary effect can have a significant impact on consumer spending and the overall economy.

Challenges for trucking companies
Trucking companies are under immense pressure due to the driver shortage. They face increased operational costs, including higher wages to attract drivers, costs associated with driver turnover, and investments in recruitment and training. The competition for qualified drivers can also be intense, leading to a bidding war between companies.

Economic impact
Disruptions in trucking reverberate throughout the U.S. economic system. The driver shortage can hamper economic growth, affecting industries that rely on trucking for transportation of raw materials and finished products. It also impacts the labor market, with ripple effects in related sectors like logistics, warehousing and distribution.

Responses and solutions:

Recruitment strategies
Trucking companies are intensifying efforts to attract a diverse range of candidates, including younger individuals, retirees from other fields, military veterans and foreign nationals. These campaigns often highlight the benefits of truck driving, such as competitive pay, the opportunity for travel and, for immigrants, the chance at permanent residency and stable work in America. 

Training and licensing
Specialized training programs are being offered to efficiently prepare new drivers. There is also advocacy for lowering the interstate commercial driving age to 18 to expand the potential driver pool.

Technological innovations
Technological advancements, including the development of autonomous trucks, are seen as a long-term solution to the labor shortage. Meanwhile, improvements in truck technology are making the profession more attractive and less physically demanding.

Policy changes
Revising regulations, such as hours-of-service, and providing funding for training initiatives are ways the government is contributing. Furthermore, improving the efficiency of utilizing immigration programs, which allow skilled and unskilled workers, including truck drivers, to immigrate to the U.S., would benefit the industry.

A complex web of challenges makes potential solutions to the commercial truck driver shortage equally complex. Trucking companies and government agencies must be just as diverse in strategies to put more drivers on the road, ensuring stability in the supply chain and economy.

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