As motorcoaches begin rolling again after being parked during much of the pandemic, it’s time to think about tire safety.
That reminder comes from Luke Loy with the Federal Motoroach Carrier Safety Administration.
Loy, a senior engineer in FMCSA’s Office of Policy, recently joined the United Motorcoach Association’s weekly Town Hall to discuss tips for safety.
A cautionary tale
He started his presentation with a cautionary tale. Loy recounted a deadly crash nearly a decade ago involving a Megabus on southbound Interstate 55, about 55 miles northeast of St. Louis. He said the event prompted FMCSA to launch a campaign to educate motorcoach operators about what conditions can lead to tires falling apart on a roadway.
“FMCSA was concerned about motorcoach tires, and we knew there were some issues out there. What really got our interest was this accident back in 2012 in Litchfield, Illinois,” said Loy, adding, “That really moved us into action to address this before it could get out of control.”
The investigation showed the left steer tire delaminated and came apart on that hot summer day, apparently causing the bus to crash into an overpass pillar, killing a passenger and injuring dozens of others.
Safety advisory bulletin
“It was an issue on only one side of the coach, whether it was a specific tire-related issue, or whether there was debris in the road wasn’t formally identified from forensic analysis by the agency’s research center in Ohio,” Loy explained during a presentation at the Town Hall.
As a result, FMCSA put out a safety advisory bulletin, warning the motorcoach industry of the factors that led to the tire malfunction. They include hot pavement temperatures, higher speeds, and heavy passenger and cargo loads. At the time, operators also were running slightly lower air pressures to give their vehicles a smoother ride.
“As we all know, the air is what carries the load,” said Loy. “It’s not really the construction of the sidewall. It’s all the air pressure inside, which is why it’s very important to have a good maintenance program to maintain motorcoach tires.”
Reevaluate tire management
While tire design and materials have improved in the past decade, layoffs during the pandemic resulted in a reduction in maintenance staff. He recommended that operators reevaluate their tire management plans now.
The timing of Loy’s advice couldn’t come at a better time, says Bill Kaiser, President of Motor Coach Tire Sales of Columbus, Georgia.
“Luke’s insight and passion for promoting tire safety in the motorcoach industry were on full display during our most recent Town Hall meeting,” Kaiser said. “He provided very specific information on tire load ratings and other tire safety recommendations that are beneficial to all UMA Members. At his urging, many manufacturers have increased tire load ratings in order to provide for increased safety margins for steer axle applications. Thanks to Luke for continuing to promote tire safety in our industry.”
‘Exercise’ tires regularly
Adam Hall and Brad York, who are Field Sales Managers for Bridgestone Mileage Solutions, also praised Loy’s advice.
“Luke did a great job with his presentation. All information he presented was spot on with what we would recommend,” said Hall. “We have been informing our clients that, like always, the best way to take care of your tires is to make sure the air pressure is correct and they are ‘exercised’ regularly.”
Both are encouraging their customers, when checking over their coaches, to make sure to also check the air pressure in the spare tire, as this can become very expensive very quickly on a trip if they have an issue with running tires.
“As Luke said, a good tire pressure monitoring system (TPMS) is becoming more and more invaluable to fleet maintenance. We welcome the opportunity for the FMCSA to test the new Bridgestone IntelliTire TPMS with others in the industry, as we feel we have a great option that will work well for motorcoaches as well as all commercial vehicles,” York said.
Watch Loy’s entire presentation to learn important tips for tire safety.