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About Those Alligators

(March 2017) posted on Fri Mar 17, 2017

Buying crane, bucket and pickup truck tires

By Darek Johnson

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Crane and bucket trucks should have dual rear wheels – “duallies” – for numerous reasons. The first is weight capacity, as well as road and handling stability, especially when towing a trailer. And, if it’s a high lift rig, you want tandem axles with duallies – eight rear wheels and tires – for added load carrying, road handling and stability when lifting. Tandems also increase traction and heighten braking proficiency. In addition, extra wheels allow you to comply more often with road and bridge tire/weight distribution limits, and they increase the vehicle resale value.

On the downside, more tires cause more road resistance, thus you’ll use more fuel; this may be equalized by longer tire life, unless you drive in mountainous country where duallies tend to scrub in corners.

Another duallie factor is that bucket and crane truck drivers are often required to drive into construction sites or unmaintained roadside areas, thus road damage is a real probability. When working in such sites, sign truck – crane, bucket or pickup – drivers should inspect their tires at three points: before elevating the crane or bucket, before leaving the site and immediately after returning to the pavement. One maddening hazard is when a large object – a board, stone or metal fragment – lodges between duallie tires, because once underway, the entity will embed even further and can cause one or both tires to blow. Preferably, you discover the hazard before you leave the site (a flashlight is helpful for spotting objects in shadowed areas). The sooner you discover the hazard, the easier it is to fix the problem. Also, if you try to remove a tire-trapped object, remember that you’re dealing with high pressure tires, so do not use power tools or devices that may damage the tires.

Should you buy retreads? I won’t say, but will note that the FMCSA does not allow retreads or regrooved tires to be run on bus steering tires. As I can determine, this is the only federal regulation that limits on which axle position retreaded tires can be installed; however, their policy provides food for thought. Conversely, online retread sites remind you that the federal government buys retreads for its trucks. They also say the quality depends upon the retread operation. says fleet tire buyers often wonder whether retreaded tires are as safe and reliable as regular tires and adds that no research shows any differences in quality between the two. The primary reason to choose retreads, the site says, is because they are much less expensive than new tires and better for the environment (by reusing tire casings). The site quotes a Utah State University report that said the rubber tire tread – the “alligators” – that you see on highways isn’t from retreads, but, rather, from newly manufactured tires. And Bandag Inc., North America’s largest ISO 9001:2000-certified retread manufacturing network (1,700 locations), claims retreads made with its equipment perform equal to, if not better than, a quality new tire. Their spin also says Bandag retreads can last as long or longer than new tires and will outperform any cheap new tire.

I see retreads like sugar in coffee – your decision.

Closing advice: I always remember how my friend Boo (BooDoo Signs, Princeton Township, MN) says to ensure your crane or bucket truck is professionally rigged, so that an inspecting authority doesn’t see it as “a disorganized circus wagon.”


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