Take a Dive into Trailer Tire Specifications and Maintenance

technician working on trailer tire

Understanding Load Ratings, Sizes, and Proper Tire Inflation Can Boost Your Fleet’s Safety and Efficiency

Despite receiving less attention in trailer spec discussions, trailer tires are vital as they are the only components that connect a trailer to the road, contributing significantly to fleet safety, performance, and sustainability initiatives.

Understanding the basics of trailer tire maintenance, including load ratings, sizes, and the importance of proper inflation, can significantly enhance the performance of a trailer’s cargo-carrying capabilities while maximizing uptime.

Designed to Carry the Load

Trailer tires are specifically designed to carry the heavy loads of the trailer’s cargo while maintaining stability, providing traction, and maximizing fuel efficiency and durability. To accomplish this, tire manufacturers spend a lot of time dialing in the specific attributes needed for heavy-duty trailer tires.

“Bridgestone heavy-duty trailer tires are uniquely designed for the trailer position in several ways,” says Robby Hamby, Director of Commercial Product Strategy at Bridgestone Americas, a supplier of trailer tires for Great Dane. “These include a unique casing design, an optimized tread depth, and a specialized tread pattern. This allows Bridgestone to maximize the tire’s rolling resistance and wear life while still carrying the required load and maintaining casing durability to maximize the number of retread lives for the trailer position.”

The design of a tire’s casing greatly impacts a tire’s load capacity. These casings feature layers of rubber-coated steel cords around each tire bead bundle. Manufacturers can increase or decrease the number of these cords to adjust the tire’s load capacity.

A stronger tire allows for a higher load capacity but often reduces fuel efficiency. The key for fleets is identifying the right combination of attributes for their application.

Size Matters

Fleets should work with their equipment providers to help determine their appropriate trailer tire size, which should be based on the heaviest vehicle load scenario. Other considerations include the dimensional clearance of the tire and rim choice. If spec’ing dual tires or wide-base tires, it is also important to measure the width of the tires.

The Tire and Rim Association publishes a list of acceptable wheels based on tire size. Fleets should select the wheel that can handle the load and inflation ratings of the tire selected.

The Power of Proper Inflation

Ensuring trailer tires are properly inflated is one of the most effective ways a fleet can achieve greater efficiency and uptime in its operations. Proper PSI contributes to the tire’s overall performance and preserves its casing integrity. By keeping a trailer tire’s case strong, fleets enhance the possibility of retreading the tire.

Dual tire assemblies are even more important for running at the proper inflation levels. Two dual-assembly tires with different diameters—even as small as 5 PSI—can lead to uneven load distribution and an increased risk of blowouts. 

“There are a lot of variables when it comes to tires, between choosing the right tire for your operation and the right pressure for your loads to get the best tire life. Fleets that go with a tire pressure across all their tires because they’ve always heard it was the right pressure can get strange wear patterns over time. Knowing all the variables and working with your tire supplier to help pick the right tire and the right pressure for your operation is very important.”

—James Brown, Manager of Warranty and Customer Service at Great Dane

By understanding trailer tire basics, fleets can improve performance and save money.