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Alex Borg

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Feb 1, 2024

5 minute read

Fleet Management Blog

What to Look for When Inspecting Tires

We all know how to spot a bald tire or diagnose the meaning of a tire pressure warning light. But there’s a lot more involved in conducting a thorough tire inspection than you might think.

What to Look for When Inspecting Tires

Between complying with federal and state mandates, maximizing fuel economy, and (most importantly) looking out for the safety of their drivers, fleets have plenty of reasons to inspect their tires. But despite the fact that most fleets make a point of assessing the condition of their assets’ tires on a regular basis, faulty tires consistently rank among the most common violations found by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. This paradoxical situation might indicate that, while fleets almost universally inspect their tires, many don’t do so very thoroughly. To help fleets better ensure the health of their tires, here’s what to look for when conducting tire inspections.

Tire pressure

These days, most modern vehicles come equipped with indirect tire-pressure monitoring systems (TPMSs) that notify drivers when a vehicle’s tires might be underinflated (typically via a dashboard light). While undeniably valuable, TPMSs shouldn’t be relied on in lieu of regular tire pressure measurements. In fact, indirect TPMSs are a bit of a misnomer because they don’t actually track tire pressure.

Instead, they use wheel speed sensors to detect if a tire’s revolution rate is out of sync with its counterparts (a strong indicator of underinflation). This means that if a vehicle’s tires deflate at a similar enough rate, an indirect TPMS might not detect any underinflation for quite some time.

Additionally, most TPMSs don’t factor in heavy loads when assessing whether a vehicle’s tires are properly inflated for a haul. If your fleet regularly moves weighty cargo, frequent tire pressure readings are especially important.

To check a tire’s pressure optimally, test it after it’s been parked for about three hours or more. Manufacturers provide recommended pounds per square inch (PSI) levels for “cold” tires and heat from driving can temporarily increase PSI by upwards of 6 pounds, so this approach is recommended whenever possible. You can find these manufacturer-suggested PSI levels in the door jamb of your vehicles, in their owner’s manuals or online.

Both underinflation and overinflation can cause tires to wear prematurely, so organizations should measure the PSI of every tire within their fleet at least once a month. Given how effective even the cheapest tire pressure gauges are and how quickly readings take, there’s no excuse for fleets to skip such an important maintenance procedure.

Keep tabs on your fleet’s tires

Tires play a pivotal role in keeping your vehicles reliable, fuel-efficient and safe. With Fleetio, you can track the location, condition and use of every tire you own.

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Tread depth

Tire treads are vitally important to the safety of any vehicle with wheels. By gripping the road, they provide traction that helps vehicles maintain greater control when rounding corners, accelerate more smoothly and brake more immediately. And in rainy weather, tire grooves expel water from beneath tires to maximize pavement contact, which prevents hydroplaning.

In fact, tire treads are so essential to the safe operation of vehicles that the Department of Transportation has specific requirements for the tires of commercial vehicles. As mandated by federal law, any tire attached to the front wheels of any bus, truck or truck tractor has to have a tread depth of at least 4/32 of an inch. All other tires are required to have a minimum tread depth of 2/32 of an inch.

To ensure compliance with federal and state regulations, fleets should measure the tread depth of their tires on a regular basis. Once a month is the standard rule of thumb, but consider checking on a more frequent cadence if your vehicles consistently travel long distances.

Whether your drivers and technicians use a tread depth gauge or the classic penny test, it’s crucial that they check every tire installed on your vehicles and that they perform depth measurements in several places on each tire. Even if a tire’s treads are mostly deeper than 2/32 of an inch, if any point reaches below that point, the integrity of that entire tire has been compromised. So to ensure tread measurements are as comprehensive as possible, it’s a good idea for fleet personnel to specifically measure parts of a tire that seem particularly worn down.

General condition

Whether your fleet sticks to city streets or regularly travels on dirt roads, your vehicles’ tires endure a lot. Gravel, tiny bits of pavement and all kinds of miscellaneous debris constantly barrage your tires from every angle, and, over time, that can result in significant damage. Additionally, the rubber tires are made out of naturally degrades as well, especially in particularly hot and cold environments.

Even seemingly minor defects can snowball into serious safety concerns, so drivers should look closely and take their time when inspecting a tire’s tread and sidewalls for signs of wear. Because it’s better to be safe than sorry, any bumps, cracks or cuts your drivers find should be reported for a technician to examine as soon as possible.

A note about tire mileage and age

Finally, it’s also worth noting that it’s wise for fleets to track the mileage and age of the individual tires equipped to their assets. While these details aren’t necessary for drivers to record as part of their day-to-day inspections, having such information on hand can help provide a complete picture of where a tire is in its lifespan.

It’s fairly common for tires installed to assets that see limited or low-intensity use to show only minimal signs of wear for several years (or longer). But once enough years pass, even if they seem fine to the human eye, they still become worth replacing as a matter of fleet safety. By tracking the age of individual tires, the process of identifying old tires in need of disposal is simple and straightforward. Tracking the mileage of individual tires is similarly beneficial.

Tire management software

Tire management software can help fleets keep track of their tires’ age, mileage and more. Comprehensive visibility over your fleet’s tires and tire-related maintenance activities allows organizations to ensure your vehicles are always equipped with tires up to their standards. And by analyzing your tire data through customizable reports, fleets can gain insights to help you learn how to maintain tires most effectively.

And for added convenience, when fleets implement a tire management solution that’s fully integrated with your fleet maintenance software, you can manage all micro- and macro-level aspects of keeping your vehicles at their best from a single centralized platform. Tire management solutions also pair well with a compatible parts management system to make tracking tire inventory a breeze.

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About the Author

Alex Borg

Alex Borg

Content Marketing Specialist

Alex Borg is a Content Marketing Specialist at Fleetio. Beyond writing, his interests include going to concerts, playing guitar, and hanging out at the beach.

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