A forklift truck’s tyres are the only component in constant contact with the ground, helping to provide grip, friction and an element of safety and comfort to operators. However, this also means that they are subject to wear and tear, which in turn can create several issues for both the operator, environment and truck itself.
Phil Dunn, head of aftersales development at Toyota Material Handling UK, explains that unsafe tyres could cause the truck to suffer from stability issues, adding that “shocks can put excessive strain on the truck’s steering”. Decreased ground clearance also makes it more likely that the truck or floor will suffer damage.
He also warns that chunked, worn or flat spotted tyres could increase operators’ fatigue and stress, “possibly making the operator less careful in their work”. In addition, tyre problems can lead to increases in fork heel wear as it becomes more likely that an operator will drag the forks along the floor. “Your warehouse floor may also suffer damage from forklift tyres,” he explains.
David Goss, technical manager at the British Industrial Truck Association, agrees about the consequences of poor forklift tyre care: “Maintenance requirements will be increased both through higher vibration levels and by reducing the clearance between the bottom of the mast and the floor, leading to dragging of lifting chains and increased propensity for fork wear.”
Goss also warns that poor tyres can impact fuel consumption, while over-tightening or reusing damaged components, such as wheel nuts, can result in rapid loosening. It’s also important to check the torque regularly.
The choice of tyre used depends on the type of forklift truck in operation, its application and the working environment. The main types are pneumatic tyres (air-filled) and solid tyres (resilient and press-on band).
Resilient solid tyres were developed as a flat-free alternative to the pneumatic tyre and feature a two-layer structure: an inner heel layer comprised of a hard rubber compound and an outer tread layer made of an abrasion resistant rubber compound for long tire life. Press-on tyres, meanwhile, are typically made from a single rubber compound that’s bonded to a steel band.
Whichever type is used, daily pre-use checks (see box) should be carried out to ensure that a tyre is safe to use. The Health and Safety Executive also says that all work equipment needs to be regularly maintained and the non-lifting parts – including tyres – inspected. Goss says that the truck should not be used if tyres are below wear limits, or if there are large missing chunks of rubber, deep cracks or cuts, or under-inflation.
“Solid rubber resilient tyres usually have a wear limit on the sidewall, sometimes called the 60J line,” Goss explains. “Generally, press-on band, moulded direct and conical base tyres may be used until two-thirds of the original rubber thickness remains. The operator’s manual will include the original ‘as new’ tyre outside diameter. Should the bonding of press-on band tyres, or those moulded directly to the rim, show signs of failure, then urgent replacement is required.”
Pneumatic tyres, meanwhile, should have at least 1.6 mm of tread depth across three-quarters of the width of the tyre around the whole circumference. Immediate replacement is required if any carcase part is exposed.
“It is very easy to assume a tyre does not require attention because it seems to be functioning,” Dunn concludes. “However, you could be taking a serious risk by ignoring the signs. Tyre maintenance should form an integral part of your regular forklift checks.”
But remember, tyres must only be fitted or repaired by a fully-trained engineer with proper knowledge, necessary training and suitable equipment.
BOX OUT: Pre-shift checks
At the beginning of each shift, the operator should check the lift truck in accordance with the vehicle handbook and document the results. Any defects that might affect its safe operation should then be reported. When it comes to tyres, checks may typically include:
● Damage to tyres such as swarf, embedded material, cuts and bubbles
● The side walls of tyres
● Tyre pressures on pneumatic tyres
● The condition of the wheels, particularly the flanges on rims fitted with pneumatic tyres
●The tightness and security of wheel nuts
Find out what else makes up pre-shift checks by visiting https://is.gd/ofudab and going to p31.