February 2, 2016

What can truckers do to minimize the risk of wheel separations?

A truck hauling a loaded flatbed trailer southbound on Highway 400 north of Toronto lost a wheel last week causing a tragic event.  The dual wheel flew off the trailer bouncing into the northbound lanes landing on an SUV driven by 69 year old Paul Koenderman of Burlington, Ontario.  Mr. Koenderman, a retired executive, husband, father and grandfather was killed in the accident.  Mr. Koenderman was on his way to his Muskoka cottage to catch up on some chores.

missing truck tire
This is the trailer that the wheel separated from on Highway 400 last week causing the tragedy.

How does this happen?  We all drive the highways everyday and we have a trust that the guy next to us is alert and concentrating on the task at hand.  We also trust that the large trucks we share the road with are driven by professionals and that the vehicle is in good repair.  While flying truck tires are not a regular occurrence on the highways, when an accident happens like the one last week, it is big news … and rightly so.

We, at Hot Freight, have had questions from customers about how these things can happen and what is being done in terms of prevention.  So we checked with one of our very best trusted trucking partners Polaris Transportation of Mississauga, Ontario.  Owner Larry Cox and his team at Polaris run a first class operation where safety and maintenance are the priority.  Larry and his Director of Risk Management Kevin Wartman described how the wheel separation risks are managed at Polaris.

The wheels are checked daily by the individual driver as he or she performs their pre-trip inspection.  Drivers will visually inspect the hub oil levels and the wheel nuts by tapping them with a hammer.  Every wheel is formally checked every 60 days by a mechanic who will use a torque wrench to insure the wheel nuts are at 500 foot pounds torque.  Also checked are signs of leaking wheel seals which can be a sign of low lubricant in the hub which will cause the bearing to heat up and separate.  Overtightened wheel nuts can break the studs and lead to wheel separations.

Kevin has trained drivers and mechanics to look for tell tale warning signs of wheel problems.   “To me if your drivers are doing proper pre-trip, in route and post-trip inspections and you have a solid torque and maintenance program you should not be having wheel offs” says Mr. Wartman.  He also emphasizes how important it is to have a regular maintenance program by professional mechanics.

All truckers need to maintain a program like Polaris Transportation and our government authorities need to insure it is happening.

John Tittel – Hot Freight International