How to maximize the lifespan of your OTR tires
From meeting the customer where they’re at, to responsible recycling at end of life
Big tires for mining and quarry applications are a huge investment for operations. Dave Allan, vice president, Canada, with Kal Tire's Mining Group walks us through the life cycle of tires for mining and quarry applications – from how a customer is assessed for their tire needs, to the tools they can use to maximize their tires' uptime, and the several ways in which tires can be kept out of landfills at their end of life.
For Kal Tire, its TOMS tire management system is the central information hub that guides decisions in the tire life cycle. Data from TOMS enables Kal Tire to look after planning tire changes, rotations, inventory and inspections.
Every customer is different and Kal Tire starts with an assessment of the customer's needs. This begins with learning about the customer – where they are, what they do and challenges in their operation – and then moves on to what they're looking for from their tires. From there, factors to consider include location, temperatures the tires will be working in and ground conditions at the site.
Everyone is looking to lower their costs, some customers will be looking to reduce their downtime and others may need to haul longer distances. Kal Tire asks if they are okay with changing tires more frequently, which will involve bringing the truck into the shop, and how long they need to run without going into the shop.
How often they're at the mill or crusher may also factor in – customers who are at the mill or crusher a lot may be able to afford to bring their trucks into the shop more often. Another factor to consider is how often they can provide trucks for preventive maintenance to avoid unexpected downtime.
Once all of these pieces are in place, a tire program can be designed for the customer.
When Kal Tire starts selecting a tire with a customer, the information gathered in the getting-to-know-you phase will inform the decision: what tire would suit the application best and, within that, how much the customer wants to spend and how performance versus price equates to customer satisfaction.
From there, tire experts can discuss heat-resistant versus cut-resistant options and other needs unique to the application, including whether the customer needs extra sidewall protection.
You can never say that one tire always fits one operation – it's a case of looking at the information and factoring in the customer's job site conditions and needs. Once they have a sense of the roads, the selection tends to become evident.
For example, if a cut resistant tire is needed because the customer knows that the roads will have many rocks, that's easy to select for. And if the trucks are going to be travelling longer distances on smoother roads and in a warm climate, such as southern B.C., heat resistance is the most important factor.
Haul road maintenance
Tires need to be regularly inspected for cuts and an operation should regularly conduct road surveys to check for tire hazards. Wear patterns on the tires from cornering can also be monitored through GPS and accelerometer measured road surveys.
Maintaining haul roads comes back to good planning – when an operation utilizes data, such as through Kal Tire's TOMS system, managers can assess where tires are wearing out quicker than they should and that may be an indication that road surveys need to be increased or that there's another issue. A speed study may be needed to assess cornering or large injuries may be happening to the tire because of bad conditions in the dump areas – there may be areas where there are a lot of rocks on the ground when the vehicle is backing up for loading. TOMS can help with identifying these issues when the condition of the tires doesn't match the plan that the operation expects.
Different tire manufacturers have proprietary tire monitoring systems that can help an operation determine when there's the possibility of a problem before it becomes a problem. Utilizing these systems can pre-emptively prevent a failure before it happens and extend the life of the tire.
Tires that are well-maintained are more likely to wear evenly – which makes the casings good candidates for retreading. It's key for operations to identify when the life of a tire can be extended with a repair to keep it on the truck. Kal Tire offers repair and Ultra Repair programs that can potentially give a tire thousands more hours of life. Utilization of retreading and repair takes planning, however, and Kal Tire works with customers to proactively identify when it's a good opportunity to retread.
Recycling tires at end of life
When there's not enough tread depth left or there's a major injury that even an Ultra Repair belt can't fix, it's time to retire the tire. Kal Tire offers several solutions for recycling tires at the end of their life. The first option is to shred the tire down to crumb to be repurposed for things such as playground surfaces or rubber mats or garden mulch – there are many opportunities to reuse that material.
However, the end result, eventually, is that this tire material will likely end up in landfill, which is why Kal Tire offers two other solutions: thermal conversion and devulcanization.
The thermal conversion process uses heat and friction to induce a reaction that converts tires into their base elements: steel, carbon black and oil. From there, oil can be reused or refined into another product, the carbon black can be used in plastics manufacturing and the steel is recyclable. Kal Tire is currently operating a thermal conversion plant in Chile.
If a tire goes through devulcanization instead, the usable rubber is shaved from the tire, crumbed in a high-pressure line, and is then turned into devulcanized rubber. That product can then be used in Kal Tire's retread plants to make new, smaller loader tires. Kal Tire has successfully worked with a customer on this type of procedure already, taking a customer's end-of-life mining tires, turning the usable tread into devulcanized rubber and using it on retread loader tires that were put back into service on the same site.
Kal Tire is making it easier for mining and quarry operations to quantify the environmental savings of solutions that extend tire life with its Maple Program. The program's calculator looks at the carbon footprint of retreading, repairing or recycling a tire and the carbon and oil emissions reduced by taking those actions.
From selection to retirement, tires for mining and quarry operations are a significant investment and careful management through using the right tools and planning at each stage of the tire's life will maximize its use until it's no longer viable. From there, operations have several options to make sure that the tire is disposed of in the cleanest way possible – whether to make other products, or new tires, for a whole new tire life cycle.