Sum of the parts on truck tyre pressure monitoring

Truck tyre prices are on the rise in the UK as a result of raw material cost increases and the devaluation of sterling following the June 2016 referendum on European Union membership. Reacting to these price rises, a growing number of fleet managers and engineers are looking more closely than ever at the latest tyre pressure monitoring technology.

One Cumbrian waste management fleet operator, Brampton Skips, tried Continental’s tyre pressure monitoring system, ContiPressureCheck, for the first time last year on one of its 20 multi-axle rigid trucks. Fleet manager Neil McPhillips says that the system paid for itself within one month by providing early warnings of pressure loss.

“We spotted tyres that had very low-grade pressure losses and so were able to remove and repair them before they got any worse,” he recalls.

“Before the arrival of ContiPressureCheck, these would have simply deteriorated further and may have resulted in blow-outs and complete loss of the tyres. Blow-outs can cost more than simply replacing the tyres, with body and light damage always a possibility, and far, far worse, injuries or even fatalities among drivers and other road-users.”

The system is now being fitted to the entire Brampton Skips fleet of eight-wheeler hook-loaders and two- and three-axle skip-loaders.

DAF for Brampton Skips

Continental struggles to keep up with demand

Truck operators across Europe are taking to tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) in general more keenly than ever, though there is still no legislation forcing them to do so. Hartwig Kühn, head of the global Conti Pressure Check (CPC) division at the Hannover, Germany-based Continental group, admits that his company has struggled to keep pace with this growing demand and that delivery lead times have stretched.

The CPC system was introduced about four years ago but truck operators initially showed little interest, mainly because it was incompatible with various fleet management/telematics systems already in service. Now it is, following development work by Continental engineers to ensure that the RFID signals transmitted by tyre-mounted pressure sensors can be received and interpreted by independent telematics systems such as those from Astrata, MiX Telematics and Verilocation (now part of the Isotrak group).

“It’s very important that the data from our system is properly displayed in the UI (user interface) of the third-party telematics provider,” says Kühn. “We now have a validation tool. It’s software we provide to these guys once they’ve programmed everything to make sure that the messages are properly displayed in their systems.”

TPMS became a legal requirement on all new cars in the European Union in November 2014, and since January 2015 a faulty or missing TPMS means an MOT test failure for a car in the UK. But there is at present no EU or UK legislation requiring such systems on trucks and buses.

This is on the way, however, expected to apply to newly type-approved vehicles from September 2020 and to all new vehicles from one year later.

Conti Pressure Check inner liner sensor

Reducing costs is more powerful then legislating

But the explanation for the surge in truck operator interest in tyre pressure monitoring lies far more in the equipment’s ability to lower operating costs than in any legislative move, according to Conti’s Kühn. List prices for the modular CPC hardware range from about €520 (£370) for a three-axle tractor unit with the basic kit, comprising sensors and in-cab display, to about €850 (£610) for a six-axle artic.

Monthly charges for adding alerts to a fleet manager’s smartphone or computer will vary from one telematics provider to another. But in every case, Kühn is confident that the CPC will pay for itself in twelve months or less, mainly through avoiding the fuel economy penalty of under-inflated tyres.

Truck fleet operators typically want to test the system in service for maybe three months, he says. Often that test is extended to six or nine months or longer. Then it comes to the crucial investment decision.

Many fleets that have been running these trials have now reached the point where that decision is being made because they can see how quickly TPMS will pay for itself, says Kühn. Avoid one tyre-related breakdown per vehicle per year and the amortisation period could be as short as six months, he reckons.

Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore
Tim Blakemore is an award-winning automotive journalist and the former editor of our sister title, Commercial Vehicle Engineer magazine. He is also the UK representative on the panel of judges for the biennial, pan-European Trailer Innovation Award scheme.

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