A few days ago, someone brought up an obscure topic about tire-checks.
This all started with the question “do we need a tire gauge? Or is a tire-thumper OK?”
A driver with several years experience has become a safety manager, and he has always ‘just known’ that it is the drivers job to be sure tires are inflated up to at least 80% of the manufacturer’s suggested level of inflation. But he could not find it in the DOT regulations. He asked me if I could point to it.
The best I could do was to put together a series of places in the FMCSR where it assigns responsibility for tire monitoring without actually defining the standard for checking tires.
396.13 Driver inspection.
Before driving a motor vehicle, the driver shall be satisfied that the motor vehicle is in safe operating condition – this would include tires

392.7 Equipment, inspection and use.
No CMV shall be driven unless the driver is satisfied the following parts and accessories are in good working order. . . (list includes tires & wheels)

397.17 Tires.
. . . driver must examine each tire on a motor vehicle at the beginning of
each trip and each time the vehicle is parked.

So my answer was that using a tire gauge is a best-management practice, but you can use a baseball bat if you choose.

The FMCSA does not seem to be the source of the 80% standard.
But, the FMCSA always sets a MINIMUM standard, and you (the motor carrier) are encouraged to establish safety management controls that are more specialized to your location and what commodities you accept for transport.

So, if 80% seems like a good standard to you, and that is your company rule, then it is a good one.

Then another member of the group reminded me to look at the OSHA reg.
OSHA states that, if the tire has been below 80%, it is illegal to just pump it up before arranging to have someone who really knows what he I looking at check the tire. When they get that low their might be cord damage or other damage that could lead to a blowout.

Is addressed to servicing facilities, which could be a 3rd party maintenance provider, or your in-house maintenance facility.

Mostly, this OSHA standard addresses the mechanic:
The employer shall assure that no employee services any rim wheel unless the employee has been trained and instructed. . .

This document sets the standard of 80% of inflation in the following manner:

When the tire has been driven underinflated at 80% or less of its
recommended pressure, you cannot just inflate it and forget it. There is a good chance the tire is damaged, so the tire has to be checked out by a maintenance shop and the wheel has to come off the vehicle.

80% is a good rule of thumb, AND your maintenance staff needs to know this, as well as your drivers. IF you choose to require drivers to use a tire gauge, you CAN change your tolerance to 25% and take risk, or change it to 15% and build in some cushion there – either of these might work well for you depending on your unique circumstances.

Mike England
DOT Compliance Help Inc

About DOT Compliance Help Inc
Phone: 847-836-6063 web: e-mail DOT Compliance Help, Inc. is a full-service consulting firm specializing in the interpretation and execution of the regulations and guidelines set forth by the US Department of Transportation Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. •Mission Statement• To assist our clients in establishing proper safety management controls in order to minimize accidents, injuries, and fatalities. The ultimate goals are safer roadways for the public and increased profits for our clients. Our core consulting competencies include FMCSA Assessments (mock audits), DOT compliance training (on-site and via webinar) and custom safety plans and policies. We also hold DOT compliance workshops and conferences all across the country. Utilizing a proprietary curriculum developed by our President, Mike England, our classes cover everything you need to know about the FMCSRs, how to survive your next DOT Compliance Review, and how Comprehensive safety Analysis (CSA 2010) will affect you.

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