Tire Laws - Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

Tractor Tire Safety Laws from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration

In a previous post about tire safety on the job site, we discussed all the reasons why you need to check your tires constantly. If you are operating heavy equipment or transporting loads, you need to know what the tire laws and requirements are for your tires to make sure that you are operating safely.

There are legal requirements as well for what tires you need and how they can be used. You can save yourself a large fine by knowing and following these regulations. You can also prevent tragic accidents and project downtime by following these regulations.

Whether you are checking the safety of your backhoe tires, skid steer tires or larger machines such as motor graders and scrapers, checking your tires is mandatory in the construction industry. Listed below are the four most common tire components that need to be checked.

  1. Tire body integrity
  2. Tire tread grooves
  3. Weight and loading restrictions
  4. Tire inflation

#1. Tire Body Integrity

The body of the tire has to be solid. You can’t drive on a tire that has any ply or belt showing through either the tread or the sidewall. This goes for all motor vehicles, not just for heavy equipment vehicles.

Also applicable to all vehicles, there must be no tread separation or sidewall separation. These are flaws in the tire that are usually easy to identify just by looking at them. They are also very dangerous if they are present in your tires, as the sidewall is what keeps you from having a blowout in the middle of the highway.

You can’t drive on a tire that is flat or that has an audible leak. This is common sense, especially because driving on a flat can damage your rim, which is a much more expensive fix than just replacing a flat tire. Also, driving on a flat is extremely dangerous, especially when you are hauling a heavy load or driving heavy equipment.

Finally, you can’t drive on a tire that has a cut to either the tread or the sidewall. This should be understood from the first two paragraphs in the section, but people have a way of trying to find loopholes, especially when they are looking at the cost of replacing tires. Don’t look for loopholes. Just make sure your tires are in good condition before you drive on them.

#2. Tire Tread Grooves

The tread grooves on tires need to be at least 2/32 of an inch on major grooves. This can be measured anywhere on the tire grooves, except on a tire bar, hump, or fillet.

For trucks, buses, and heavy equipment, the front tires need a little more traction. The tread grooves for the front wheels of these vehicles need to be at least 4/32 of an inch deep. Again, it can be measured anywhere on the major grooves, except on a fillet, tire bar, or hump.

Regrooved and retreaded tires can be a great way to save money on tires, but you do need to know when they are and are not allowed. Buses can only have regrooved or retreaded tires on the back wheels. You can never put a retreaded tire on the front wheel of a bus.

Tractors, trailers, and other heavy equipment vehicles can also have retreaded tires on the back wheels. They can only have regrooved tires on the front wheels if they are less than 2,232 kg or 4,920 lbs weight capacity. Presumably, of course, this means that you would have less than that amount of weight on the tires as well, so there would be less of a safety concern about the ability of the tires to withstand the stress of the job.

#3. Weight Restrictions and Tire Loading Restrictions

You can make it simple for yourself and just remember never to have a greater weight on the tire than the marked weight rating on the side of the tire. If there is not a marking on the side of the tire indicating how much weight it can carry, you should just go with what the standard weight rating is for that sort of tire and assume that your tires are the same.

However, you can load your tires with a greater weight than is indicated if a) you have a special permit issued by the state, and b) you drive slowly to compensate for the greater load. Go as slowly as you need to in order to be safe, and you should never go faster than 50 mph if you have overloaded tires.

#4. Proper Tire Inflation for Heavy Equipment

You should always have your tires inflated to the cold inflation pressure indicated for the weight of the load you are carrying. Cold inflation pressure is the pressure before you have driven on the tire. Keep in mind that as you drive the temperature inside the tire heats up from friction, which causes the pressure of the tire to increase. If you must check your tire pressure after you have been driving it for a while, you can calculate the equivalent cold pressure by factoring in how long you have been driving.

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