In my last blog I ended with the thought that I would look at crowd funding for university research. This blog is about that, but you have got to get though the following idea to get to that idea.
As you may have gathered from my prior blogs, I have taken an interest in all things related to the wheel end, including tires and wheels and because of this blog, I recently got involved with a company that wants me to use my skills to get the word out about a facet of wheel end maintenance that many ignore or totally misunderstand.
As always, my first step is to consult the Technology & Maintenance Council Recommended Practices (TMC RP’s) related to the subject. I followed that by in the field hands-on research, set up Google alerts, and survey current trade magazines and blogs on the subject matter. I also saw the company’s presentation on the subject several times to learn their prospective on the issue.
Part of the company’s presentation is related to truck rollovers. The premise of the presentation is that by the time a commercial truck tire is worn out, the shock absorber is also worn out. Changing a tire without changing the shock would be like changing the oil in your car without changing the filter; it doesn’t make a lick of sense.
I am a big believer in the TMC RP system, but no pun intended. I was shocked to learn the status of the RP (RP643) that supports this company’s position on the above premise--that when replacing a worn-out tire one should assume that the shock is at the end of its useful life of protecting other components from damage and allowing the driver to maintain control of the vehicle during accident avoidance maneuvers. The shocking thing about RP 643 is that the current valid RP was released in June of 2000. There is an update from 2007 that went part of the way through the TMC RP approval system, but was never released. The good news is that there is a task force meeting to resolve any issues related to the acceptance of the 2007 version of the RP. Here is a quote from the RP:
“Shock absorbers used on air-ride or taper-leaf suspensions for on-highway vehicles should typically provide effective dampening control for 150,000 miles (100,000 miles for vocational applications). Beyond this point, greater consideration should be given to the effectiveness of the shock’s dampening value due to performance deterioration. At some point this deterioration could have an effect on other components. For example, tire wear can be attributed to worn shocks. Because of this, some fleets have found it beneficial to install new shocks when installing new tires so as to maximize tire life.”
So the company’s position is supported by a TMC RP and makes sense.
During my field research I learned firsthand that many tires are changed with no regard to shock replacement. Many truck operators think inspecting the shock is to look at it and if it is still there and not leaking, it is okay. I have asked many truck operators, “Would you not change your oil filter just because it is there and not leaking?” Of course you know the answer is, “Are you nuts?” You need a working filter to protect the engine. Do you need a working vibration filter (the shock) to protect your driver and vehicle?
I got home from my field research and find this front page headline in a trade magazine:
“Speed, Lack of Seat Belts Cited by U.S. in Truck Fatality Spike”.
Here is a quote that stimulated the writing of this blog:
“Wearing your seat belt and not having a rollover are two very important components of not perishing in a truck crash.” Nowhere does it say in the article that the powers that be, are looking at the condition of the key component that allows the driver to maintain vehicle control – the shock! As Big Truck TV thought leaders, let’s do some research in the area of shocks, rollovers, and current maintenance practices. Or is it time to do something more drastic?
Here is another headline that awaited me,“Schneider’s Osterberg Urges Stronger Links Between Research and Business Applications” with my favorite quote, “Oftentimes, the research community says, ‘We do research, and the bridge to implementation is really out of our scope.’”
I have been directly involved with university research related to transportation issues and not only agree with the above statement but would add that this is just the tip of the iceberg.
Because of my recent consulting project I have not had the time to look into crowd funding for university research like I wanted to. However, I would like to start a project at Auburn University that would equip a lab to independently study the truck rollover issue, especially as it relates to the condition of the shock absorbers. What fleet or owner operator would allow shocks from a vehicle rollover to be sent to a university to study if poor maintenance practices caused a fatality and a program of replacing shocks per a recommended practice would have saved a life? Could a joint industry, university, and government research project overcome all issues (imagine just the legal angle) and get to the bottom of shock maintenance issues?
I think for my next blog I will report how on low rolling resistant tires (LRR) interact with shocks and internal balancing agents for longer tire life. I have some field reports that some fleets are experiencing huge reductions in tire life with the LRR tires. I think this would be a great area for mutually beneficial crowd funded research; maybe my next blog will get the ball rolling.