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Abnormal tire wear- cannot find the problem?
Oct. 09, 2015

Back in the day, when we were starting the business, we did not have sufficient funds or credit to buy or rent brand new, quality equipment.  Most of the trailers rented or purchased were old, and on top of that they would have miss-matched tires. Eventually this led us to learn very important lesson the hard way, - or shall i say very expensive way?
So here is one story of a trailer that we bought in 2004. The trailer was around 10 years old, but generally in very good shape. All the tires were in good to fair condition, and of course most of them were from different manufacturer and different tread. Since the trailer and all of the tires were good, we immediately placed it to work.
Very first week one of the tires started wearing out so bad that by the end of the week it had to be replaced, and since we assumed that there is an undiscovered mechanical problem with a trailer it was replaced by another used tire. Who would wanna place a new tire on bad trailer and damage it? By the end of the second week another tire were replaced due to abnormal wear. Twenty days and 4 tires later, the trailer was brought to the shop for checkup, since were was no significant issues found, we decided to still realign it, change the shocks and bushings.  Our piece of mind did not last long, another 20 days on the road and three more tires later we were heading to a different shop, since the first shop lost our trust. After few more minor parts replaced and new alignment, the trailer was placed on the road again. But the problem continued.
One friend of mine suggested to to change all the tires at once with a same tread, but the financial dilemma of changing all new tires and damage them all in just a few weeks was to much to risk... However we had no other choice, because taking trailer to the shop every couple of weeks and changing all the unnecessary parts was not cheap either.  After shopping around and weighing the risks, i came up with solution of replacing all the tires into brand new same tread recaps. Just in case if it won't work at least it will be cap's, and not the expensive new tires getting damaged.
Finally the magic happened. We were able to use this trailer for a few more years without any issues. Things changed a lot since then, most of our current trailers are no more than five years old, and the majority of them are just a year or two old, we still remember the lesson to keep the matching tires. This type of practice were used multiple times on our equipment, and it does work. So the next time you have an issue with abnormal tire wear, take it to the shop, check for mechanical problems, and then just make sure all your tires are same. This advice is good for both, tractor and trailer. Share this with your trucking owner operator friends, and you might save them all inclusive vacation in Mexico instead of time down and chronic headache running from one repair shop to another. We are the family connected by trucking, lets help each other by spreading the word of wisdom, at the end of the day we're all one anyway.

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Here are my top five predictions for trucking in 2013:

1. Fuel prices will decline by 10 cents per gallon, for at least part of the year, but they will remain high relative to carrier revenue. As the fuel price -- and surcharge -- declines, the line haul portion of the rates will increase to compensate, so the total rate paid to the truck should remain stable to 2% higher over the course of the year. (For more details, see my discussion with Peggy Dorf about the economy in 2013.)

2. Seasonal rates will rise for all trailer types in Q2 on the spot market, to an atypically high peak, but the increases will not be sustained throughout the year. A Q2 spike is normal on the spot market, but this year it should be exaggerated because of demand-related issues: (1) Flatbeds will be in high demand to haul construction materials and equipment to the East Coast for post-Sandy re-building, and to support increased oil drilling in the Upper Midwest and South Central states; (2) There (hopefully) won't be a repeat of last year's spring freeze and prolonged summer drought, which depressed reefer freight volume and rates during produce season; and (3) Pressure on capacity for other equipment types will affect vans as well, because carriers with multiple trailer types will accept the high-payng.freight first and leave the van trailers in the yard. Van-only fleets should find themselves in a strong negotiating position, especially for time-sensitive freight.

3. Capacity should be adequate, with short-term, localized shortages. Class 8 truck sales were robust in 2012, but the net increase in drivers is not keeping pace. As soon as the economy revs up, transportation industry publications and analysts will start fretting about the looming capacity shortage, problems with driver retention, rising freight rates and all the other "risks" of economic growth. I predict that economic growth will be tepid in 2013, at best, so capacity issues will be mostly confined to local and seasonal shortages.

4. Truck freight tonnage will increase by 2.0%, and spot market freight availability will grow 5.0%. Last year we saw a 3.4% increase in tonnage compared to 2011, according to the ATA For-Hire Truck Tonnage Index (not seasonally adjusted.) That was good, but not as robust as the 5.7% growth of 2011 vs. 2010. Looking ahead to 2013, we may see a flat or negative freight tonnage index in Q1, followed by a strong Q2 and a rebound in the rest of the year. I'm expecting a 2.0% to 2.5% uplift for overall tonnage in 2013. Spot market demand -- meaning demand for trucks -- rose by 2012, with 7.5% growth in van and reefer freight availability balanced by a 2.0% drop in loads designated for flatbeds. In 2013, freight availability should rise for all three major trailer types (see discussion of seasonal rates, above.) Net prediction: the spot market in 2013 will look more like 2011, with 5% growth. 

5. Consolidation among freight brokers and 3PLs will affect individuals and companies, but there won't be a big impact on the overall market in 2013. The $75,000 bond requirement kicks in at mid-year, but enforcement is likely to lag. Some small brokers will not have sufficient financial resources to secure a bond at that new level. The effect of the bond won't be felt immediately, but we expect to see a trend toward consolidation among intermediaries. Large brokers and 3PLs will buy smaller ones, and some independent brokers will become agents or retire from the business. Trucking companies may forge tighter relationships with brokers, rather than establish a brokerage entitiy with its own authority and bond, that is separate from the trucking company, as required by law.
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