Published in January 2021 Fleet Affiliation
Safety is routinely ingrained in our processes; however, it is important to bring the topic back into focus. Often, processes become habits and are assumed to be followed. Making assumptions from any position on organizational chart can create a risk. Safety, both design and operational, sometimes creeps into the implied requirements. With the new year and emerging protocols (especially with continued COVID-19 challenges), it’s beneficial to reflect on the basics. Bringing them forward can reduce risk and provide your organization with continued understanding of day-to-day operations through long-term procurement strategies.
Where the rubber hits the road — tires
As basic as it sounds, having a credible tire inflation program can be complicated. Beginning with the operator, tire pressure maintenance education is critical. Of course, correct tire pressure increases fuel economy, reduces tread wear and lengthens long-term benefits on suspension and steering components. Sometimes, defining proper inflation is debatable. Every tire sidewall is labeled with a maximum inflation pressure. In almost every case, this is not the correct pressure for a specific application. Passenger vehicles and light truck recommended tire pressures are based on maximum vehicles capacity and can be found on the driver’s side B post. Vehicles that have been completed in two or more stages may need some adjustment and must be based on actual maximum weight carried on each axle. It is important to note — adjusting a single component (a higher capacity tire) does not change vehicle capacity. All components must be considered when defining true maximum weight.
Overloading vehicles can become common practice, albeit a faulty one. Operators have the ability to load vehicles beyond maximum capacity based purely on available volume. For example, a truck designed to carry 3 cubic yards of mulch weighs substantially different as compared to a vehicle designed to carry 3 cubic yards of wet sand. However, the volume is the same. A fleet professional has a legal obligation to provide and operate safe vehicles. NHTSA requires that safety devices be operational and that vehicles are not overloaded. As mentioned above, it is important to understand the gross vehicle weight rating and gross combined weight rating does not dictate how much cargo or weight the vehicle can carry. Almost every major individual component (axles, springs and tires, for example) has a weight rating. Exceeding these weight ratings will render a vehicle overloaded.
Simple, consist situational awareness of how trucks are used and operating environments can instill common sense that becomes common practice. Although fleet professionals cannot completely eliminate potential safety hazards associated with operating work trucks, it is crucial to consider as many perspectives as possible. Whether as a spec writer or as an operator, a different reference point can provide insight to identify and mitigate additional potential hazards.