Tyre fires are uncommon in relation to the number of tyres on the road, but the statistics show that it is something that should concern every transport operator. The cause of fires starting at the wheels is always difficult to identify as the resulting damage often makes an examination impossible. Though the underlying cause for these fires is always excessive heat that manages to ignite a tyre or some stray oil or grease at the wheel end.
According to the 2020 Major Accident Report by the National Transport Accident Research Centre, 33% of truck fire losses since 2011 were caused by tyre or wheel end failure or faults. The report also identified underinflation as the leading cause of tyre failure.
Michelin Field Engineer, Phil Arnold, stated; “tyres contain a great deal of potential energy. They are like high-grade coal when they start to burn, and they are very difficult to extinguish. When a tyre comes apart while driving, it’s usually because of underinflation. Heat generated within the sidewalls of a flexing tyre weakens the casing’s steel belts, softening the rubber to the point that it eventually breaks down and the tyre blows apart. With tyre fires, the heat source is the wheel end. Heat travels through the hub’s metal and through the wheel, where it contacts the tyre bead. Since the bead is built differently than the upper sidewall, its rubber just gets hotter and hotter until at some point it begins to burn”.
It has been made clear that regular vehicle maintenance and inspection of all wheel end components is essential as prevention measures for tyre fires. Even with the use of Tyre Pressure Monitoring Systems, it is recommended that tyre pressures are checked and adjusted weekly with regular high speed motorway travel.
Not only useful for permanently sealing punctures in the tread area of the tyre, Air-Seal Products Heavy Duty tyre sealant can stop all rim, bead, and other slow air leaks. This will help maintain optimum tyre pressure, meaning you will no longer be operating with underinflated tyres, and will reduce the chance of a tyre fire in your trucks!
- The driver should drive slowly in the emergency lane until the tyre separates from the rim. Stopping could lead to the fire spreading.
- Notify the fire department as soon as possible!