Tire pressure monitoring systems and automatic tire inflation systems have long been seen by fleets as competitive systems — you opt for one or the other, not both. Curious as to whether that view still holds true in the face of rapid changes in truck technology, including advances in data sensors and telematics connections, HDT reached out to suppliers of both systems to find out what their take is now on TPMS vs. ATIS, and how they may work together.
Gaining situational awareness
“We view ATIS and TPMS as complementary,” says Jim Sharkey, vice president of global sales and marketing for Pressure Systems International, a longtime provider of ATIS. The company is preparing to launch its TireView TPMS, which will be aimed at tractors and straight trucks and also sold as an enhancement to PSI’s existing ATIS, which is also marketed as the Meritor Tire Inflation System.
“TPMS provides a level of detail beyond knowing that a tire is taking air,” Sharkey explains. “It identifies which tire [needs air] as well as the tire temperature and the leak rate. With TPMS alone, you are still relying on the driver to report a problem.”
He adds that TPMS requires warnings be set at some value below the cold pressure setting (roughly 5 psi or more), “so while a tire is losing air, prior to the pressure falling below the trigger point, you suffer decreased fuel economy and increased tread wear.”
TPMS by itself won’t help if there isn’t ready access to air when a driver finds a trailer has one or more under-inflated tires. “But an ATIS-equipped trailer can air up when connected to the tractor, transport the load, and then have the problematic tire repaired.”
Sharkey says that by combining ATIS and TPMS with a telematics solution, fleets will gain “the ultimate in situational awareness: identifying where trailers are, individual tire pressure and temperature, and if the ATIS is filling a problematic tire. Fleets can also determine if a tire issue requires immediate concern, or if it can wait until the vehicle reaches the terminal based upon the leak rate.”
Thinking starting to shift
Vanessa Hargrave, chief operating officer of TPMS provider Advantage PressurePro, says that “historically, TPMS and ATIS have been viewed as competing systems, but this thinking is starting to shift. Progressive fleets especially are willing to make an upfront investment that can bring them long-term benefits in safety and savings.”
She outlines the main differences between the two types of systems: “ATIS is a mechanical mechanism built to automatically trigger inflation in a tire if it hits a trigger point, while TPMS is an electronic monitoring tool that provides tire performance information and alerts directly to the driver and/or fleet manager so they can pinpoint tire problems before they become costly or dangerous. ATIS, a hands-off unit, can help remedy pressure loss without interaction or notice. And TPMS, a hands-on unit, arms fleets with diagnostics and data to help recognize not just tire failures, but also tire trends.”
Advantage PressurePro recently introduced Dynamic Sensor technology, which use internal logic to evaluate pressure fluctuations over time and determine optimum tire operating parameters. Also new, and designed to be paired with Dynamic Sensor technology, is the PressurePro FX solution. “It’s the first ‘bring your own device’ solution built specifically for non-consumer vehicles,” says Hargrave. “FX is quickly showing to be a lower cost, easy-to-use solution for drivers.”
Unique value of each
“While it’s understandable to assume there’s some overlap in features, there are unique aspects of our TPMS and ATIS systems that make them each very valuable to fleets,” says Lee Alexander, Stemco’s director of product management, IoT Platforms. “Our TPMS, called AirBat RF, can identify tire pressure faults at an individual tire level, while our ATIS, Aeris SmartSense, provides an indication of a wheel end taking on air. This higher granularity of information can aid quicker diagnose of an issue and know what tire might need to be serviced soon.”
He also points out that although a TPMS can provide offline diagnostics, Stemco’s ATIS needs trailer power to operate. “The most beneficial aspect of ATIS is that it compensates for the leak while the trailer is in motion, to prevent breakdown and get a driver safely to the next stop.” Alexander adds that Stemco is working on pilot programs that will “better incorporate the two systems so that they both achieve greater value for the fleet and a better experience for the driver. We’re also exploring strategic opportunities for passing this valuable trailer information through telematics systems.”
In search of connectivity
Judith Monte, vice president of marketing and customer success for Aperia Technologies, says the producer of the Halo ATIS “keeps the pulse of fleet perceptions of TPMS and ATIS.” She says a recent survey showed that 8 out of 10 fleets preferred ATIS to TPMS. “However, the feature fleets most want integrated into their ATIS solution is connectivity.
“While a fleet can overcome more than 95% of potential tire issues by keeping tires properly inflated with a Halo ATIS, our solution is intentionally compatible with TPMS,” she continues. “Fleets wishing to inch closer to the 100% mark may be inclined to specify TPMS along with ATIS.”
Monte notes that Aperia has collected data on Halo-equipped vehicles encompassing “tens of thousands of tires across countless use cases” and so has “developed a wealth of knowledge about tire behavior… [That gives us] the ability to provide actionable insights, not only about what is going on with inflation pressure, but to alert fleets about things like slow leaks that Halo is keeping up with so that service for that tire can be conveniently scheduled and mismatched tires or impending bearing issues can be addressed.”
Aperia’s Halo system is unusual in that it can be used on drive axles, while most ATIS solutions only work on trailer axles.
Basic vs. advanced
“TPMS and ATIS are different systems and provide different benefits to end-user customers,” says Steve Slesinski, Dana’s director of global product planning for commercial vehicles. “TPMS measures tire pressures while the vehicle is in operation and can report low tire pressure events back to the driver or fleet manager, but it cannot take any action to re-inflate the tire. It monitors and reports only.
“Basic ATIS simply pressurizes an air line and the tire to a predetermined value, similar to your home air compressor,” he continues. “But advanced ATIS, like our Dana Spicer Optima system, can also monitor tire pressure, report tire pressure to the driver or fleet manager, and adds an additional critical capability – the ability to actively re-inflate the tire while the vehicle is still in operation with no input required from the driver or fleet manager.”
Slesinski adds that advanced ATIS can also “proactively report any ATIS issues to make certain it is functioning properly…. [it’s all part of] taking automatic action to prevent tire failures.” He notes that the Optima system works on steer, drive, and trailer axles.
Making it safe to stop
“TPMS, especially digital tire monitoring systems, and ATIS can be complementary,” says Michelle Reinhart, head of digital solutions for Continental Commercial Vehicle Tires. “With digital tire monitoring, such as our ContiPressureCheck Integrated system, drivers and fleet managers are able to see real-time tire pressure and temperature. This could be complemented by an ATIS that’s able to add air to a damaged tire for a short period of time, enough for the driver to reach a safe service area rather than having to stop on the side of the road.”
Reinhart adds that, “Continental’s digital tire monitoring systems are not susceptible to air leaks and do not require intensive maintenance, making them a better choice for certain fleets.”
Smart systems ahead
Earlier this year, SAF-Holland introduced its Tire Pilot Plus ATIS, which can top off or release air to maintain proper and equal tire pressure across all trailer positions. The system features a high-pressure relief that vents excess pressure when tires become over-inflated, one of only a few systems that can do so.
“As ‘smart’ systems evolve, TPMS and ATIS will be blended together into one system that will provide the end user the advantages of both system in one,” contends Bill Hicks, SAF-Holland’s director of product planning and market development. “[Such integration] will likely come at an additional cost. However, the value of these advanced systems will justify the upcharge.”
He notes the company is evaluating market trends, including greater use of telematics and increased digitalization, as it develops its next generation of products.
Belt and suspenders
Bendix, which offers a TPMS system for tractors and trailers, plans next year to release a new TPMS integrated with the Bendix ABS system and a standalone version for non-Bendix ABS applications. “We do see some fleets looking for a belt-and-suspenders approach and opting for both TPMS and ATIS,” says Jon Intagliata, product manager for trailer, ABS, and TPMS.
“Working together, these systems can complement one another and address the limitations of each system individually,” he continues. “While a tire inflation system can add air to a leaking tire, it may provide a false sense of comfort to the driver, as the system may not be able to keep up with the leak in the tire. But when combined with TPMS, the TPMS would identify that pressure in the tire is not being maintained to the required level and alert the driver or back office.
“Alternatively, TPMS can easily identify a low tire pressure issue, but it cannot take action to address the issue like ATIS can. Fleets looking to maximize tire life or minimize downtime due to on-road tire failures use the two systems to reap the benefits of both.”
Calculate ROI for two
Matt Wilson, business unit director - controls for Hendrickson Trailer Commercial Vehicle Systems, says the company does not consider its Tiremaax Pro ATIS to be in direct competition with TPMS offerings.
“Our system actively maintains the tires as opposed to a technician [doing so],” he points out. “With TPMS, a technician or operator is required to take action to respond to an over- or under-inflated tire. TPMS can be complementary to Tiremaax Pro if a fleet desires to collect additional, very specific, tire-pressure data.
“For those fleets, complementing Tiremaax Pro with [separate] TPMS might make sense,” Wilson continues. “However, it is important to consider the upfront cost of installing both systems when calculating return on investment.”
Touching on trailer telematics, he notes that in the next year, Hendrickson expects to have Tiremaax Pro system status available on “many of the popular vehicle network and telematics devices” available for intelligent trailers.
Telematics makes the link
“By pairing an ATIS with a TPMS ‘2.0’ system that’s integrated with telematics, a very robust tire monitoring and maintenance solution is created,” says Peggy Fisher, president of TireStamp, which offersTireVigil Cloud, a TPMS-based service that promises 24/7 visibility of vehicles and tires and the ability to schedule service for tire problems as they develop.
With such an integrated setup, she says that if a tire should lose air when parked, “as soon as the pressure passes the fleet’s low-pressure threshold, an alert would be generated and maintenance could be scheduled before the driver jumps in the truck. Also, TPMS will identify the wheel position of the problem tire so they eliminate the need to search for it and save technician labor.” Fisher adds that “if the ATIS is turned off, the TPMS will still advise both the driver and the fleet that tire problems are developing.”