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No more flat truck tires?

In parts of Brazil, where infrastructure to get grain from the field to the terminal, some large trucks actually have to keep air lines running to each tire in case the rough road causes a tire blowout or dramatic loss in pressure. In some cases, the driver can adjust air pressure from the truck's cab.

But, with a new tool in the works at one giant of the tire industry, such precautions may be a thing of the past. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company researchers have spent the last year working on a new tool that would allow the driver to subtract one of the many things to worry about when trucking a load of grain down the road. The company's Air Maintenance Technology tool, which will debut in Europe later this year, utilizes a system of pumps and valves to allow the tire to reinflate itself when pressure slips. More research and development is planned over the next few months, company officials say, before the tool will be ready for commercial availability.


Graphic courtesy Goodyear.

"We believe the Air Maintenance Technology application for commercial vehicle tires will not only enhance the performance of the tire, but will also provide cost savings to fleet owners and operators through the extension of tire tread life and increased fuel economy," Goodyear Chief Technical Officer Jean-Claude Kihn says in a company report. "The progress we continue to make with this technology is very encouraging. We look forward to further testing of this concept."

Once ready for production, Goodyear leaders say the new tire technology will help save farmers and others who drive or depend on trucks to see major savings; Goodyear data shows for every 10 PSI of pressure lost in a typical truck tire that normally runs on 100-105 PSI, it could cost more than $600/year in additional fuel. And in general, Goodyear officials say a truck tire underinflated by 10% can decrease treat life by up to 16%.

Looking ahead, company officials expect the project to yield products for the farm and consumer public by next year. That process is being sped along by a $1.5 million grant from the U.S. Department of Energy.

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