We recently had a company driver haul a leased trailer back from California. The trailer had been out for several months and we had limited information about the status of its maintenance, the tires were “ok”and the brakes were working so the trailer got hauled 2,500 miles back home. We met the company driver in Central Pennsylvania to finish the run home.
While backing into a parking spot at a truck stop for the night, we noticed a tire slowly rolling across the parking lot. Hey look someone lost a tire! Wow, that looks like a tire from a Kaufman Trailer!
It's hard to completely put into words the feeling you get when you see a tire from YOUR trailer rolling across the parking lot at a truck stop. One thing was certain… the other truckers in the lot had no problem putting into words THEIR feelings about my tire rolling across the lot!
So how does this happen? It's a simple answer... zero maintenance of the wheel bearings. And yes a wheel can fall off if the bearings get to the point where they break apart loosen the locking nut and the separate the wheel drum. Kaufman recommends an inspection and tightening or replacement of the bearings on their 6-7K axles every 12,000 miles. They are not kidding.
A driver recently asked us a good question, “If the front wheels on my car can roll 100,000 miles and several years without inspecting or tightening the wheel bearings, why can’t my trailer last more than 6 weeks and 12,000 miles?
The answer is in understanding the stress placed on a tri-axle trailer wheel set-up. On every turn the wheels have a tremendous amount of applied lateral force as they sometime drag across the pavement. The tighter the turn, the greater the lateral-force, and this ongoing lateral force, in 2 different directions, has the ability to “walk” the bearings loose. The only way to prevent a bearing from failing under ongoing lateral forces is to manually pull the wheel and tighten the bearings.
We have however developed some intermediate tests that can easily be performed or observed during daily operations and without pulling a trailer tire. These will be explained in part #2 of “Mind Your Bearings.” Until then try not to loose a trailer tire across a truck stop parking lot… you will have a new appreciation for what the big truck drivers think of you!