Total Vehicle Wheel Alignment
After fuel, tires are an owner-operator's biggest operating expense. With a set of 10 tires costing thousands of dollars, getting the most out of those tires is a high priority for owner-operators.

by Paul Abelson

Alignment and tire pressure are the two factors that influence tire wear the most. We've discussed the role of air pressure in past articles, in this one we'll discuss alignment. And alignments raise a lot of questions from owner-operators. How often should I have an alignment done? Does my new truck need an alignment? Where can I get a "good" alignment done?

The Maintenance Council (TMC) has a "Recommended Practice" in the final stages of approval regarding "Total Vehicle Alignment." The document, RP 642, carries the long but descriptive title, "Total Vehicle Alignment: Recommendations for Maximizing Tire and Alignment-Related Component Life." It discusses how to track tire life on an on-going, and therefore predictive, basis, so problems can be detected while they are still correctable and before tires have developed irreversible wear. The RP suggests techniques to inspect tires, and provides forms to record results. These forms, when completely and accurately filled out, can help you in discussions with dealers and service providers, and, if it ever comes to it, with OEM factory service representatives.

RP 642 was developed cooperatively by all the truck builders, drivetrain suppliers, major tire makers and re-treaders, major suspension manufacturers and alignment equipment makers. Its stated purpose is to provide "procedures to identify, record, document and analyze instances in which vehicle components or manufacturing processes fail to meet user expectations." It also offers guidelines for selecting and evaluating both alignment equipment and service providers. The RP recognizes that some things require adjustment or maintenance, especially during break-in. As they relate to tire life, they are discussed throughout the RP. The following are highlights from the RP. They are meant to give you an overview, but are no substitute for the entire document. The quotations are used with the permission of The Maintenance Council.

What is The Maintenance Council?

The Maintenance Council (TMC) is a voluntary association of truck maintenance professionals dedicated to identifying and solving problems related to trucks, equipment and maintenance. Although founded as part of ATA's Regular Common Carriers Conference (RCCC) almost 45 years ago, TMC prides itself on its independence from any influences, internal or external. There are about 1,400 fleet members, and more than 70 percent of the fleets they represent are not members of ATA. TMC concentrates solely on maintenance aspects of the trucking industry, and takes no political positions whatsoever.

TMC develops "Recommended Practices," troubleshooting guides and manuals, and training videos. They are all written and prepared cooperatively by full members (truck operators) and associates (suppliers). Among TMC's more active volunteers are OOIDA members Mike and Gail Swiger. They recently identified problems they were having with windshields replaced improperly, and Gail now chairs a task force that is writing an RP on the subject.