Your tractor is equipped with 10 of them. Every time you drive, you sit on a platform mounted directly over them, trusting they will get you where you need to go. We are obviously talking about tractor tires. What may seem insignificant to people who do not drive a truck for a living are objects that are incredibly important to you. Good truck tires can be lifesavers.
It is with that knowledge that a quick perusal of tire discussions on trucker forums becomes a fascinating endeavor in anthropology. It can be quite entertaining to read comments left by trucker’s arguing over who makes the best and worst tires. One guy will swear by Yokohama while another prefers Goodyear and so on.
Still other truck drivers argue over whether to buy cheap tires more often or expensive tires less often. At the end of the day, it all boils down to choosing the tire that gets the job done safely. Unfortunately, though, there is no black and white rule for saying one brand of tire is better than another.
It’s All about Traction
Peeling away the manufacturer claims and dealer promotions reveals that tire safety is really all about traction. Isn’t that why you put deep tread tires on your tractor anyway? Of course. You are depending on those treads to channel away water, snow and ice, and debris that could throw off the handling of your truck. You are expecting that tread to give you the traction you need to get going from a full stop on a slick road.
Manufacturers and dealers are fully aware of how important tread is to tire sales. As such, they make a lot of noise about tread depth and pattern. Deeper treads essentially mean longer-lasting tires while specific tread patterns are more advantageous under certain weather conditions. But note that traction and safety do not stop there.
There is television programs which feature truck drivers who make their living on the icy roads of Alaska and northern Canada. If you’ve ever watched the show, you may have observed drivers reducing the air pressure in their tractor tires. They do this for a reason.
Lower air pressures increase the amount of tire surface that comes in contact with the road. Under icy conditions, this affords extra traction that could be a lifesaver in an emergency. Of course, you wouldn’t want to drive on dry pavement with low tire pressure but running a rig on an icy road is another matter.
Your Driving Habits Matter
Another thing that is frequently lost in the discussion over which tires are best is the reality that driving habits matter. How fast a trucker accelerates and brakes partly determines how quickly his tires wear. The same is true for cornering and backing. Tractor tires are under a tremendous amount of stress even when the driver drives perfectly. But how many drivers do that all the time? Very few.
How a driver drives also affects the rest of the rig in ways that indirectly affect tire wear. That previously mentioned TV program featured a driver in its first season who was extremely reckless with his equipment. The way this guy ran his rig had him spending more time in the repair shop than on the road. The damage he caused would have undoubtedly affected tire wear had it not been repaired.
Tractor tires are indeed lifesavers. When you choose new tires for your truck, consider more than just the brand. There is more to tire safety than a mere name emblazoned on the sidewall.