Fitting the right tyres and maintaining them correctly will help farmers to operate safely and efficiently this winter, as well as enabling them to stay on the right side of the law, according to Mitas Tyres, the leading manufacturer in the off-road sector.
“Taking a few, simple steps will pay big dividends in terms of maximising machine availability, as well as keeping operators safe and legal when the weather turns cold,” states Ron Wood, Automotive Engineering Manager for Mitas Tyres.
“The agricultural sector represents an increasingly time-sensitive business environment, in which tyres are a vital component in ensuring that all types of equipment operate efficiently and reliably, both on and off-road,” Mr Wood emphasises. “This is particularly relevant to dairy and livestock farmers who have to operate seven days a week, under all conditions and must therefore reduce the likelihood of mechanical issues interrupting their schedule. With a little time and attention, most tyre-related problems can be prevented.”
Farmers are under a legal obligation to ensure that the tyres fitted to equipment that they own and operate, including trailers and implements, are fit for purpose, Mr Wood points out. That means fitting the correct type for a given situation or application, ensuring that they are maintained in good condition and are operated in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations.
“It is important to check tyres carefully for signs of excessive wear, damage and correct operation,” Mr Wood emphasises. “Cracks on older tyres can become relatively deep and lead to gradual pressure loss or even sudden failure of the casing, particularly if they occur in a vulnerable area such as the sidewall, which can have serious implications in terms of reliability and safety. If damage is evident the tyre should be replaced as soon as possible, which is best done on a scheduled basis to avoid unplanned downtime, as this will inevitably occur at the least-convenient moment. If you have any doubts request an examination by the tyre manufacturer, a service offered by most reputable manufacturers such as Mitas Tyres.
“Operators must also ensure that tyres are suitable for the application, load and operating speed. They must be at the correct pressure, as over-inflation will cause rapid, uneven wear, while under-inflation will cause excessive deflection of the casing, resulting in poor handling, heat build-up and premature failure. Also note that inflation pressures will reduce in cold temperatures and tyres may need to be re-inflated.”
In the field, operating at the correct inflation pressure optimises the area of tread in contact with the soil, thereby reducing the pressure exerted by the machine and minimising the amount/severity of ‘ruts’ which are created. It will also reduce fuel consumption by up to 20%, increase work rates, minimise wear-and-tear, improve operator comfort and significantly reduce maintenance costs. correct tyre pressures will improve steering accuracy, braking performance and stability, reduce rolling resistance and fuel consumption, whilst ensuring more even wear across the tyre section and longer life.
A plethora of complex legal regulations govern the operation of tractors and equipment. The law requires that pneumatic tyres be designed and manufactured adequately to support the maximum permitted axle weight when the vehicle is driven at a specific speed. Beyond that, they must be maintained in such condition as to be fit for the application for which the vehicle, trailer or implement is used.
Although agricultural tyres are not included in the scope of BS AU 159F which covers repairs to car, commercial vehicle and motorcycle tyres, if a temporary repair is carried out the tyre manufacturer’s warranty may be withdrawn. It is therefore advisable to repair any agricultural tyre to BS AU 159F, the standard which relates to those fitted to commercial vehicles.
“The increasingly seasonal nature of demand from the agricultural sector has led to a general downgrading of the technical knowledge base which is available to farmers, with fewer distributors able to justify the investment required to properly service this market,” Mr Wood states. “It is therefore important that farmers identify a supplier with specialist experience of the industry.”