Regular readers of FleetWatch will be familiar with the pioneering work a company called Nitralife is doing to promote the adoption of nitrogen as an inflation medium for truck tyres. According to the company’s managing director, Rob Sowry, nitrogen has several benefits when used as an alternative to normal air, the most telling being the prolonged life of both tyres and rims.
The proof of the pudding is in the eating, as they say, and Sowry’s declarations have been substantiated by one of Nitralife’s biggest customers, Fast ‘n Fresh, which is now realising substantial improvements in its rubber costs and wheel costs, thanks to nitrogen in its fleet tyres.
“Fast ‘n Fresh is getting longer new tyre life and more recaps per casing life,” says Sowry, “as well as improvements in rim maintenance and brake systems. The fleet is replacing about 30% less tyres per month than it did some three years ago, taking fleet growth into account. At say R3 000 per new tyre with 3 800 rolling wheels, that is a lot of money every month!”
According to Gavin Wilson, managing director of Fast ‘n Fresh, “we introduced nitrogen inflation at our Cape Town depot in 2003, then introduced it at City Deep in 2004 and then relocated the Nitralife equipment to our new Centurion facility in 2007. The Gauteng and Cape Town operations account for approximately 3 800 rolling wheels that are nitrogen inflated. We have always taken pride in our tyre management and ultimate cost-per-kilometre results, and this has benefited from nitrogen inflation.”
Wilson cites the following improvements: “Original new tyre life has improved by 8.5% on steering axles, 11.6% on drive axles and 10% on recapped tyres. In addition, our rim maintenance and replacement costs have improved as a result of the lack of rust conditions. Brake and hub foundation have also benefited from the ‘cooler running’ conditions. There is no doubt that nitrogen has had a positive effect on the overall cost of transport at Fast ‘n Fresh.”
One point to note on retreading, adds Sowry, “is that casing life has increased on both primary and secondary fleets by one extra retread life per casing. If a retread costs under half of a new tyre then every retread they get is saving them more than R1500 per tyre. The reason for the ‘one extra life per casing’ is that tyres are not oxidised from within by nitrogen (as they are by air), so their integrity is maintained for longer and the casing stays stronger, allowing the extra retread.”
Nitrogen is of great benefit to professional retreaders because it can help them get one more life out of every casing, says Sowry, and they would rather sell a retread than a new tyre.
“This ‘one extra life per casing’ is an un-recognised benefit at the moment which, with me having worked at Maxiprest Tyres and the retreading industry, I personally know would be interesting and important to other retreading companies. However I believe the retreaders need some reassurance and encouragement and they need to be more courageous and actually take the bull by the horns and endorse nitrogen and use it. The only example I know of is Tirepoint, which bought a nitrogen system and installed it on trial at Enviroserv, where it made a positive impact on costs and increased casing life,” Sowry adds.
Another positive aspect to nitrogen inflation is its ‘green’ factor, something no ‘forwardthinking’ transport company should ignore.
“Every retread saves many litres of oil because a retread requires less oil to manufacture compared to a new tyre. Oil is burnt to make ‘carbon black’, which is what binds the rubber compound and the whole casing together, giving it its resilient strength. Only 18% of the oil used to make a new tyre goes into retreading a casing. This fact alone is why retreading should be encouraged, rather than buying a new tyre prematurely. Retread a tyre and use less oil,” Sowry concludes.
2009 FleetWatch magazine and FleetWatch On-Line.
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