June 25, 2009

Trucking 101: Super Singles

After lots of consideration, I've decided to start a dating service for truck drivers. They live such a lonely life. I'm calling it "Super Singles."

Well, it sounded like a good name for a dating service, but that's not what this is about. We're not talking romantic relationships today. We're going to discuss tires.
Traditionally, trucks have had dual tires. I'm sure everyone has noticed the multiple tires on the axles as you drive by at face level with them. Count them sometime. You'll understand the name "18 wheeler." Probably, if you've even payed the least bit of attention, it wouldn't take much, you've already put two and two together, no pun intended.
In recent years, with new technology and the ever present and increasing drive to increase fuel deficiency and save money, everything about the trucking industry has been subject to inspection, consideration, and eventual change. Truckers, though, are generally really stuck in their ways. They are for the most part somewhat of a renegade group. They don't like to be told what to do, and they don't take changes very gracefully. Thus, newer trends in trucking, newer technology, is slow to take hold, and receives a lot of criticism in the mean time.
A few years ago, someone somewhere developed the theory that a single tire, instead of dual tires, would be better. Oh how the CB buzzed with the discussions. Drive down the road and check out the trucks. The majority of them are still running with their 18 wheels. Sit down at any truck stop cafe and eavesdrop on the conversations. If you stay long enough, your bound to eventually hear a couple of crusty, grumpy, sleep deprived truck drivers debating the pros and cons of "super singles," the slang name given to single tires, and whether or not they are "super."
After much consideration, Malcolm decided to go ahead and put them on the trailer. We'll also get them on the new truck. We'll not put them on this one thouhg since we don't plan to stay in it much longer. We had discussed using "super singles" off and on for the past year or so, but always decided against it. At the times we discussed it we were hauling cattle and produce. Now with the hopper, things are a little different.
Here are the general reasons for not getting Super Singles:
1. if you have a flat tire, your done, where as with duals if one goes flat the other is still there and you can limp along slowly to a tire repair shop. With singles, you are stuck on the shoulder in the middle of no where, in the middle of the night, until the repair truck can come to you and then charge you millions of dollars because they had to drive 500 miles to service you out in the boonies. Of course, Malcolm just added you can get a chain, jack your axle up, wrap a chain tightly around the tire, and then limp along like that to a service area. Neither option sounds very appealing.
2. Tire life could be longer or shorter, depending on conditions. Tires driven on gravel roads a lot have shorter lives than those that cruise on smooth asphalt all the time. It depends on where your going. Only one way to find out how they'll last for us...try them.
3. Rumor has it, they slip on snow and ice. I guess we'll see!
4. Malcolm added this one: they are ugly and goofy looking. (I added: truck drivers are just a little critical of each other, and have super high ego's. So appearances are important.)
5. They cost a little more than duals. A set of Super Singles on the trailer cost approximately $3600 where as regular duals cost around $3000. You usually replace the trailer or drive tires once a year.
Here are some reasons in favor of getting Super Singles:
1. "Should" get better fuel mileage, they say. We'll see.
2. They are lighter than duals, so it increases your loading capacity by about 400 pounds. That amounts to about $4000 more a year if you have them on the truck and trailer. ($2000 if you just have them on the trailer like us) So basically one set of tires saves you enough money to pay for one set of tires, almost, provided you don't have any of those out in the boonies service calls mentioned earlier. Did I make any sense there?
3. In some states, like California, shippers are penalized if they let you leave their facility weighing more than 80,000lbs, because that is the maximum weight limit (with standard tandem axles. You can haul more with permits, or more axles, but we're getting into a whole other topic here.) With "Super Singles" you have a lighter empty weight, which makes it easier to load. The amount of fuel you have on the truck is less critical. (Fuel weighs approximately 8 lbs per gallon, and we have a 200 gallon capacity. You do the math.)
When we were working mostly with produce, we were being paid by the mile. Weight had nothing to do with it, and so there wasn't really any benefit to getting single tires. However, with the hopper, its all about weight. Everything we do comes down to how much we weigh, and our goal is to get the truck and trailer as light as possible so that we can haul more weight. When we're going into a shipper, we try to be as low on fuel as possible, so that we can load more product, getting our fuel after we leave the shipper. This means that we do run over weight some, but I'm not talking thousands of pounds, just a few hundred. We don't try to be overweight, but there is a 500 lb overweight "grace" amount.....and we use every bit of that. Its all about the money.
The new truck that Malcolm is working with Kenworth on is going to be built as light as possible. We have a heavy duty bumper on this truck in case of hitting deer. It weighs four hundred pounds. We're leaving it off. Our generator, the one that's now broken and needs a $2700 repair, weighs about 400 lbs, and we're leaving it off too. The new truck, with newer technology, is legal to idle in all states. (for heating and cooling purposes. Again, a total new topic. Stay tuned for a Trucking 101: Idling)
We want to get one of the trucks with the 86" studio sleepers. We currently have a 72" sleeper. It would give us more living room, and only weighs 300 lbs more, so we had to find some way to compensate for the extra weight. The Super Singles will do that for us.
And I've tryed to use the "be lighter/make more money" as an incentive to loose some weight myself, but so far it hasn't been enough.

I remember asking years and years ago, why I needed to learn this or that in math because I "wasn't going to need it." The answer was always, "It might not seem like it now, but you'll use it someday," and I always thought in response, "sure, whatever!"

Now that "someday" is here, it seems like every spare minute is used up calculating weight, distance, fuel, and a million other things. Guess my teachers can say, "told you so."

This Just In:

Malcolm just got off the phone with Brandon. Turns out an a driver we know who is running 'Super Singles" just had a blow out near Idaho Falls, ID, which brings up another reasons I forgot to mention in my "cons" list. Very few people keep the "Super Singles" in stock because it hasn't achieved popularity yet. Therefor, he had a difficult time finding a replacement. I know it seems like the "cons" far outweigh the "pros." Just remember....for us it's all about the weight!

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