There have been a lot of excellent discussions and articles written on Team Run Smart about truck tires, specifically on-highway drive and steer tires, trailer tires and wide base single tires also referred to as super singles. I have learned a tremendous amount about tires and I’m grateful for all the information. I believe the majority of Team Run Smart members can be classified as over the road drivers to include local, regional or long haul. I realize each type of operation is different from the next and each type presents unique challenges for the tires being used in that operation whether that is scuff resistance or low rolling resistance, the main goal is tire life and fuel mileage.
Another important type of tire in our industry is a traction tire for off-road type operations. For my operation, fuel mileage saved from tires is not a consideration because I don’t travel enough miles in a year to realize a gain in this area. About 95% of my operation is off-road and that breaks down to about 50% of the time operating in the bottom five gears in deep reduction, about 40% of the time in the middle five gears in low range and about 10% of the time in the bottom two gears in high range. The 5% on-highway time is simply getting to and from a fire in either Oregon or Washington. My main areas of interest when choosing drive tires are tread design/traction, tread depth, rubber compound composition and tire ply rating. In addition to these items I am very interested in after-sales service and finally tire price.
After sales, service is more important to me than tire price because if I break down in any fashion, I have 24 hours to get up and running again or I’m demobilized and sent home from the fire incident. Once sent home, it’s not likely I would get dispatched to that fire again. I need a tire company with many store locations in my geographical area with a great service team. If I blow a tire and I’m 35 miles up a narrow gravel/dirt mountain road, I need a tire repair person willing to take their service truck to my location. I currently buy my tires from Les Schwab Tires which is a regional tire company with over 450 stores in Washington, Oregon, California, Idaho, western Montana and northern Utah. They have tire stores in less populated areas in addition to urban areas and have been fantastic when it comes to “roadside” tire repair for my truck or personal vehicles.
Many summers ago before cell phones were common I had a steer tire blow several miles up a steep mountain road and I was at least 40 miles from the nearest town. I ended up walking over 8 miles to the nearest phone, which was at an elderly couple’s farm house. It was very hot, in triple digits, and I hadn’t seen a shower in a week as we were mopping up a fire so far from civilization. The elderly couple was reluctant but nice enough to loan me their phone to call the nearest Les Schwab tire store which was a long distance call in those days. I told them what happened, what tire size I needed and I gave them the address of the farm house which put them on the right highway. I told them to look for a very dirty guy, wearing wildland fire-fighting clothes and walking along the road. I didn’t want to stay at the farm house because I could tell the couple was uncomfortable just letting me use their phone. I got about 6 miles back up the highway when the service truck pulled up. In addition to the tire I needed he also brought ice cold water for me. That is what I call service and it really made my day.
My choice of drive tires at this time are Ohtsu BI-887 traction tires. I run 285/75R-24.5 size drive tires, 16 ply, 30/32” tread depth, load range H with a closed shoulder tread design and aggressive center block tread design to help with increased traction while providing rigidity and hopefully good tread wear. My biggest issue with drive tires has always been what I call the “hot knife” issue which is when rocks take out large chunks of tread just like a hot knife would. It is just amazing how fast this happens and how much rubber can be removed; last summer I lost a couple chunks of rubber clear down to the steel belts.
Right now my choice of steer tires is a Double Coin RR900 highway tire. My steer tire size is 385/65R-22.5, 20 ply, 20/32” tread depth, load range L with a closed shoulder tread design and 6-rib, 5-groove tread design. I hope I see decent mileage from these tires with minimal rubber loss from rocks. My previous drive tires were Toyo and they worked well until the tire wore to about 50%. At that point they seemed to simply peel away almost like you would see cheese through a cheese grater. I could grab small pieces of rubber and pull them off the tire surface, which I wasn’t pleased about. I chose to try a different brand this go around. I replaced the steer tires before the end of their useful life because I wasn’t comfortable with how they were wearing.
What are your current or past tire choices for traction or off road applications? What type of mileage/tire life did you see for your large investment? I know I’ll never see the mileage that highway tires see, but I would be happy to get 35,000 miles from my tires.