All That's Trucking

Wheel-off incidents sure can get your attention

February 16, 2012

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"If I had been up five minutes earlier, I wouldn't be having any conversations with anybody."
That's what Canadian Bill Oriold of a small town near Calgary, Alberta, told reporters after a set of truck duals flew through his front door and landed in his kitchen, according to the Huffington Post Canadian edition.

The tires, along with their metal axle, came off the tractor-trailer about 6 a.m., as it was heading north on Highway 24 just outside the town east of Calgary. Oriold said he's an early riser and could have been making coffee in the kitchen or taking his dog outside to pick up a newspaper and been in the path of the projectile. Instead, a sound like an explosion got him out of bed, his first thought being that the furnace had exploded.

The Calgary Sun report features a video showing some of the damage: "Flying semi wheels smash through man's home".

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The driver apparently didn't realize the duals were missing until he heard news reports of the incident.

This is only one of a number of reports of "wheel-off" incidents in the past year. A number of them have been in Canada, prompting Rolf Lockwood, vice president of editorial for Today's Trucking, to write a piece on prevention that will appear both in TT and in the April issue of HDT, where he's a contributing editor.

This week's incident also prompted Senior Editor Tom Berg to recall a piece he did for HDT back in 1996, taking a semi-humorous look at a serious situation. Our online archives don't go back that far, so I'm reprinting it here:

Categorize Those Lost Wheels As You Update Your Resume

You're in the office collating a bunch of computer-generated reports that document the effectiveness of your maintenance program when a call comes in from one of your drivers.

"Yeah, what is it?" you bark at him, because you're still preoccupied with composing the memo you're going to send to the higher-ups on what a sterling job you and your crew are doing.

"I just lost a wheel!" he hollers, apparently preoccupied with his own predicament.

"You lost a wheel?" you shout back. He has gotten your attention.

"Yeah. Two of 'em, actually. But it didn't hurt anybody. They went off into a field." That's a relief, anyway. He goes on to explain that the studs broke, allowing the duals on the right-rear tandem of the trailer to detach themselves and roll away.

"Well, what you have there, Horace," you reply after partially regaining your composure, "is a Category 2 wheel failure." In spite of the seriousness of this situation, you kinda smile because you're one of the few who know what the blazes that means. And you wonder if you should include the term in the memo you'll now have to write to the higher-ups, explaining how the wheel loss could have happened in view of your sterling maintenance program.

You know what "Category 2 wheel failure" means because at a recent industry meeting you ran into Bob Smith, a former field engineer at a major wheel maker and now a consultant on wheel matters. In talking about wheel-loss failures and how they're caused, Bob mentioned that they could be designated by number.

He quickly thought of two classifications based on the numbers of two study groups within The Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations. Study Group 2 looks at tires and wheels, including fasteners. So a failure caused by broken studs or lost lug nuts is a Category 2. That, of course, is what Horace experienced.

Lack of attention to lug nut torquing is behind many wheel-loss incidents, including the Category 2. If the nuts are not checked for tightening, they can back out. Or they can let the wheel shuffle enough to break off the studs.

Either way it's an unhappy and potentially tragic occurrence, and Bob above all people recognizes that. But he did smile when he suggested this classification system, which also includes....

The phone rings again. It's another driver, and you sense that it's another bit of bad news.

"I just lost a wheel!" he says in an agitated manner. "No, make that two wheels. They both came off, along with part of the hub on the right-side forward axle of the tractor tandem. Flew off into a field." It seems that farmers are reaping a bountiful harvest of wheels from your rigs this day.

"I see," you tell the driver in your most professional manner, although you're grateful that video phones are not yet in use because he'd otherwise see the sweat forming on your increasingly furrowed brow. "What you seem to have there, Hiram, is a Category 6 wheel failure."

"Category 6," you remember from your conversation with Bob, relates to TMC's Study Group 6, which covers chassis components, including axles. It sounds to you like a bearing has burned up, disintegrated and let most of the axle-end hardware loose, including the brake drum.

This happens when the bearing runs out of lube, probably from a seal failure which should have been caught by any of many inspections. Or maybe there was too much preload on the bearing. Either way, it will make a glaring and embarrassing statistic on your computer-based reporting system.

You make sure that Hiram is okay and instruct your shop foreman to get service trucks out to both him and Horace. Then you begin composing your letter of resignation to higher-ups. And using your skill at multitasking in Windows 95, you call up your resume and begin updating it to include the phrase, "presently seeking other employment opportunities in fleet management."

However, you're happy that no more wheel-loss classifications are likely, because the other TMC study groups don't relate to them. You certainly don't want to tell another driver that he has a "Category 3, 4 or 5" failure.

Still, as you go out the door of your office for the last time, you are proud that you've contributed to the lexicon of maintenance management.

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Author Bio

Deborah Lockridge

Editor in Chief

All That's Trucking blog is just that – the editor's take on anything and everything related to trucking, with the help of guest posts from other HDT editors. Author Deborah Lockridge's career as an award-winning trucking journalist started in 1990.

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