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Al Naboodah on tackling tyre trouble in RAK

PMV Middle East catches up with Al Naboodah Group Enterprises — following a three-day tyre safety campaign in RAK — to discuss road safety in the Gulf and how CSR programmes can help

A technician checks a truck’s tyres in the campaign.
A technician checks a truck’s tyres in the campaign.

One subject upon which every vested party in the heavy vehicle sector in the Gulf agrees about is the need for improvements in road safety. Aside from the all too often human tragedy of road accidents, an absence of awareness about the causes can lead operators to blame their equipment, rather than addressing their own safety or maintenance regimes.

One significant cause of accidents in the Gulf, especially during the summer months, is tyre blowouts. The critical failure of a tyre is always a serious event. In the worst cases, it can cause a heavily loaded truck to become unbalanced and tip over. In the least problematic of cases, significant damage can be done by the extra load on the truck’s axles even if it leaves the road safely.

It was with such concerns in mind that Al Naboodah Group Enterprises’s Automotive Products Division — which is responsible for tyres, batteries and lubricants — headed to Ras Al Khaimah in early April for a three-day road safety campaign, in partnership with Goodyear Middle East and the RAK Public Works & Services Department (PWSD).

Anand Hegde, GM for the Automotive Products Division at Al Naboodah Group Enterprises, notes: “Over the course of a three-day campaign we inspected about 400 vehicles. The whole process involved stopping the vehicles for a quick inspection of all the tyres, and then we’d make a tyre examination report. We’d explain to the driver about the condition and pressure of his tyres and then we talked about general things to do with road safety.”

The campaign focused in particular on the importance of monitoring tyre pressure and tread wear for signs of problems, and conversely, the risks to operators and other road users of ignoring such problems.

The two main technical issues, says Hegde, are under-inflation and uneven wear. He explains: “In 50°C ambient temperature conditions, the asphalt reaches 80°C and the air temperature inside the tyre tube goes up to 110°C — so you are talking about a critically stressed-out situation for tyres. Under-inflated tyres lead to further heat build-up, and this can result in premature failure. Such scenarios can lead to a burst out, and indeed, that is the biggest reason for accidents.

“In the case of uneven tyre wear, it occurs when the product quality is poor and could also point to problems in the bearings and axles — and with uneven wear, there is again the risk of premature failure.”

And yet, the simple act of a drivers inspecting their vehicles prior to setting off each day holds the potential to identify a considerable number risks before a problematic scenario can even arise.

Hegde continues: “We advise drivers to visually inspect their tyres every day: during the safety campaign we even saw one truck with a large nail stuck in one of its tyres. Operators should check the pressure every week, and wheel alignment once every 30,000km.”

Al Naboodah Group Enterprises entities are routinely prompted by the group’s CSR team to plan activities, and Swaidan and Goodyear have held other events in residential areas.

However, this was only the second event for heavy commercial vehicles, after an earlier event in December 2015, and it was made all the more successful by the active participation of RAK PWSD. Engineer Ahmed Al Hammadi, the director-general for RAK PWSD, was involved both at the planning stage for the campaign and there on the day.

In particular, he advised that the event should be run like a pit stop: to minimise the disruption to the truck drivers, and allow them to be swiftly on their way again. He also recommended making follow up calls with the drivers.

Hegde adds: “The purpose of the safety campaign is to remind them about the basics, educate them about how serious the impacts are, and to try to get them to do something about it.”

Hegde adds there is an awareness of the problem among the drivers, but, in many cases, this does not extend to an understanding of the potential risks, and as a result, drivers are not sufficiently concerned to ensure that checks are properly scheduled.

Tubeless tyres are another potential solution in the Gulf, as Hegde explains: “The industry worldwide is shifting to tubeless tyres, which give you get better heat dissipation and have a longer life.

“The problem is that tubeless tyres need a different kind of rim — so for the existing population of trucks to shift to tubeless would be extremely costly. However, newer trucks are now coming into the market with tubeless tyres.”

Commenting on another practice in the industry, Hegde notes: “Retreading is not a bad thing as long as you go to a reliable retreader who checks the casings and does a professional job”.

Even so, he notes that fleets prefer to limit their use of retreads to drive units, while avoiding critical applications.

As for the safety campaigns, Al Naboodah Group Enterprises plans to host another event on the Dubai-Abu Dhabi road later this year and ultimately, to get into the habit of holding two a year on a rolling basis.

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