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Nitrogen tyre inflation has become more well-known, and is no longer the sole preserve of specialist tyre users such as the international motorsport or commercial aviation sectors. In fact, it is even conveniently available today on the forecourts of many petrol stations in South Africa.

NITRALIFEseptember2017TomSowryWhat is less widely known is the significant cost-savings that commercial transport fleet owners can enjoy when they run their vehicle tyres on nitrogen inflation, says NitraLife Sales Director Tom Sowry. “If you enter ‘savings with nitrogen tyre inflation’ into an Internet search engine, there are pages of evidence on the cents-per-kilometre savings which nitrogen tyre inflation can bring about. The benefits of inflating your fleet tyres with nitrogen are really significant if you are a major commercial transportation company with dozens of vehicles on the road,” he adds.

“The longer the distances travelled and the heavier the loads, the greater the benefits. “Even if your company is not a commercial transporter, and you are simply using a couple of delivery vehicles to get your goods to market, our experience since founding NitraLife in 1996 has shown that savings of between 5% and 30% - depending on fleet and load size, and distances travelled - are eminently possible.”

Oxygen and water vapour are constituents of air. Once air is pumped into a tyre, water vapour is concentrated inside the casing and along with the action of oxygen, degrades the rubber and causes the steel within the tyre to corrode. This reduces the tyre’s ability to hold pressure and also leads to early casing failures. Because nitrogen preserves tyre rubber, when it comes to the re-treading of tyres, the casing is able to be re-treaded several times more than its air-filled counterpart.

“With the cost of a heavy transport vehicle tyre, if one can get two or three more ‘lives’ out of a casing, the savings are obvious. A major tanker operator had to scrap some 20 tyre casings a month. Once they started to fill their tyres with nitrogen, this number decreased to around 13 casings a month,” Sowry says.

Nitrogen escapes through tyre walls four times more slowly than oxygen; and water vapour escapes 117 times more quickly than nitrogen. Nitrogen tyre inflation ensures that correctly inflated tyres will not overheat. Heat build-up - as underinflated tyres flex beyond their specified limits - is a major cause of premature tyre failures.

“Maintaining correct tyre pressure with nitrogen is even more important if one’s vehicles are travelling very long distances, particularly if they are going beyond South Africa’s borders to areas where tyre maintenance facilities are more rudimentary or not available at all. If a vehicle is on the road and away from its home base for two or three weeks, knowing that the tyres are not losing pressure gives fleet operators real peace of mind,” says Sowry.

“As any fleet operator knows, commercial transportation is a highly competitive sector. Customers want their goods delivered quickly and reliably. Tyre failures mean lost time and late deliveries. Furthermore, a vehicle stranded next to the road with a valuable cargo on board – known as an ‘on-the-road’ failure - is a tempting target for criminals and poses a real security threat,” he adds.

“All tyres flex during normal operation and this leads to the build up of rubber particles inside the tyre. Rubber is composed primarily of carbon and therefore, when these very small particles are exposed to high heat levels caused by binding brakes or a wheel bearing failure, they can – when mixed with air - combust or even explode with potentially calamitous consequences. With high purity nitrogen filling a tyre, this cannot happen and the safety of driver, vehicle and valuable cargo is ensured.”

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