Make your wheels go the distance
Sometimes, manufacturers and service providers DO have to re-invent the wheel to keep up with the ever-increasing demands of their clients. CLAIRE RENCKEN speaks to two such companies that are thinking outside the box.
Even with the recent fuel price increase and additional toll gate charges, truck and bus companies countrywide remain under severe pressure to deliver goods and services on time and at reasonable prices. Among other things, the cost of tyres has a direct impact on businesses that have to work within their cost per kilometre limits in order to remain profitable.
The result is that too many truck and bus companies are faced with compromising safety by neglecting vehicle maintenance – in this instance of tyres – in order to reach the required profit margins.
Michelin Tyres South Africa set about addressing this problem. The solution came in the form of Michelin Truck Service Centres (MTSC). Equipped with state-of-the-art mechanical equipment and quality tyres, these recently launched centres offer essential breakdown and on-the-road services. They provide a convenient, high-quality, safety-focused service to the truck and bus industry.
There are over 40 such outlets already operating in India, Thailand and Saudi Arabia, while South Africa currently has MTSC operations in Villiers and Polokwane. An additional six operations – in Cape Town, Bloemfontein, Durban, Gauteng and Mpumalanga – are in the pipeline for 2014.
Jaco Venter, partnership programme manager at Michelin Tyres South Africa, says: “Downtime is not an option, therefore, the sooner we can offer a complete breakdown service nationally, the better.” Products offered at these centres go beyond just tyres and also include batteries, rims, valves, extensions, nitrogen and stock retreads. Services range from alignment and balancing, fleet inspections, stripping, fitting and tyre repairs, tyre regrooving, pressure checks, surveys at the point of sale and on-site vehicle services.
“We are also partnering with key manufacturers, such as Bosch, for truck parts and servicing. Currently we are looking at a lubricants partner so that we can expand our footprint nationally. This will ensure that truck and bus drivers have easy access to much-needed assistance and parts at affordable prices,” concludes Venter.
This innovation goes a long way towards helping truck and bus companies to make profits that are not at the expense of either lives or vehicles.
Tyre Pressure Monitoring System (TPMS) Africa was formalised in 2009. Founder member, Michael Tribelhorn, established contact at Autocarriers to determine the viability of proceeding with the trialing of a TPMS product.
Owing to the interest expressed by Autocarriers, Tribelhorn went on to research products, suppliers and manufacturers abroad. After a lengthy period of wading through products, specifications and quality perceptions, Valor TPMS-203, from Shanghai-based Baolong, was identified as the best product for the South African commercial road freight industry. Realising the enormous potential for TPMS in South Africa and the infrastructure required to develop and support the initiative, Tribelhorn asked Derek Manser to join him in establishing a formal business to pursue TPMS.
A trip to Las Vegas, to meet with the CEO of Baolong at the annual automotive components expo, was the beginning of formal agreements to represent Valor TPMS-203 in South Africa and Southern African Development Community (SADC) countries.
Over the last four years, TPMS Africa has developed its TPMS-203 product to match the requirements of local transporters. TPMS-203 originally catered for vehicles with up to 24 wheels. Added development, in conjunction with an overseas manufacturer, now enables TPMS-203 to cater for any number of wheels and, most importantly, super-links. Further enhancements make tyre rotation easy.
Some features of the system are:
• The sensors, unlike most systems available, are mounted internally onto the rim, thus providing for accurate temperature and pressure assessments;
• TPMS-203 monitors pressure and temperature in real time;
• The sensors collect data every four seconds, uploading the data to the display every 30 seconds, which in turn saves the data to memory for download after a trip or trips;
• Maximum pressure range: 14 bar;
• An alarm for pressure at 20 percent below baseline and 30 percent over baseline; and
• An alarm for temperature at 90°C.
The latest development includes the option of monitoring a fleet’s tyre pressures, temperatures and alarms for under- or over- inflation, slow leaks and high temperatures – all from the desktop, using a web application called Sensornet. Trip statistics can be downloaded for analysing tyre compounds, treads and, consequently, road surface conditions, to match the best possible compound selection.
Tribelhorn is excited about the progress of TPMS: “We have made great strides within the open cast mining sector. A mining group has commended the use of TPMS-203 and is currently rolling it out to its entire fleet in Namibia.”
He adds, “One of the global players in the tyre industry has acquired TPMS-203 units for tyre compound trials with a local inter-city bus company. Installation is due to commence shortly on two buses. The dry powder and chemicals division of a large corporation has also acquired a few TPMS-203 units and has been awaiting the final development of our web-based monitoring application. There is no doubt that an efficient tyre pressure monitoring system offers huge cost savings in terms of fuel, tyre expenditure and, most importantly, safety.”
TPMS Africa is in the process of appointing Uretech, in Rosebank, Gauteng, as its preferred reseller for Africa.