Service provider Steertrak has warned that ensuring wheels are correctly aligned is more important than ever in the wake of increased fuel and tyre costs.
“The greater the misalignment of the wheels on a commercial vehicle, the harder the engine will need to work to compensate for this. For the majority of commercial vehicles on the road currently, this results in increased fuel consumption,” said Steertrak.
“Every operator is acutely aware of increased fuel costs [and] it’s a similar story in the tyre sector, with once ‘cheap’ second tier products now the price that their premium brand counterparts used to be not so long ago. So every percentage saved on fuel and tyres now represents a significantly higher value.”
While most people understand something about alignment, there is also much misunderstanding around the difference between basic tracking and commercial vehicle alignment, the company says.
“Often tracking of cars and some vans is thought of as setting the front (and sometimes the rear) wheels parallel to each other,” said Steertrak.
“The requirement for trucks and trailers is different. Here it is necessary to be able to set each individual wheel parallel to the vehicle so the reference point needs to be the chassis itself.
“There is a common misconception that you cannot align fixed axles such as trailer or drive axles. Although the tracking on these axles cannot be set, inter axle adjustment and adjusting the wheels parallel to the chassis can be made. Additionally considerations need to be made for the steering box timing.
“Add to this the size, weight, distances covered, and the type of operation for any commercial vehicle then this makes the business case for optimising and maintaining wheel alignment very compelling and always self-financing.”
The company also highlights the environmental benefits of alignment procedure.
“Industry research and Steertrak customer data suggest reduction of up to five per cent on fuel and over 20 per cent on tyres can be readily achieved from optimising wheel alignment. This by default will result in reduced emissions and tyre particulates. This is low hanging fruit as it readily achievable now and on all commercial vehicles currently on our roads.
“Aside from the financial benefits of reducing tyre wear, we should also be thinking about the environmental impact of tyre particulates. Research in the car sector has shown that for every kilometre in modern vehicles, tyres produce far more particles than exhausts.”
In terms of when is best to check wheel alignment, Steertrak says that some operators wait until they see major tyre wear before getting the wheel alignment checked.
“However, at this point the damage is already done and the money is down the drain,” warned the company.
“And it is not just the cost of replacing the tyres, as for every pound wasted on tyre wear around four pounds would have been wasted on fuel.
“Many fleet engineers now insist on a wheel alignment check as part of the vehicle’s annual MOT, as well as every time a steering or suspension component is replaced.”
Established in 1984, Steertrak operates a large independent fleet of commercial vehicle mobile wheel alignment engineers, offering a national presence and the ability to service HGVs, trailers, PSVs, coaches, buses, cranes and vans.
“Our dedicated engineers can come to your site and are able to optimise all aspects of your vehicles’ steering and running gear to improve fuel economy and reduce tyre wear,” the company concluded.