Nitrogen (N2) tyre inflation has over the years become 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.
What 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.
“The benefits of inflating your fleet tyres with N2 are really significant if you are a major commercial transportation company with dozens of vehicles on the road,” says local N2 generator supplier NitraLife’s Sales Director Tom Sowry.
NitraLife launched its business in 1996, and was very much a pioneer in the field of N2 tyre inflation locally; as well as being the first supplier of generators for N2 tyre inflation to the commercial transportation sector.
Since then, NitraLife has also successfully expanded into supplying generators for N2 inflation of tyres to the passenger vehicle market and the mining industry. However, the company has its roots - and a vast pool of expertise and experience - in the field of commercial tyre inflation.
“The longer the distances travelled and the heavier the loads, the greater the benefits,” Sowry explains.
In the early days of NitraLife, their highly efficient membrane N2 generators were manufactured in a limited ‘litres-per-minute’ size, which was more suited to the larger commercial transporter.
“However, today, we can customise generators, for example manufacturing a smaller 120 litre-a-minute machine, which is a size better suited to the needs - and budget - of the smaller fleet operator,” continues Sowry.
He explains that even if a fleet operator can save 3-5% on tyre costs, this will most often pay for the rental or purchase of a NitraLife generator.
Sowry points out that a number of South Africa’s major commercial transportation companies have been using NitraLife generators for the past two decades to do their tyre inflation. What they have found is that because N2 preserves tyre rubber, when it comes to 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,” he advises.
Sowry cites the example of one of his customers – a major tanker operator – which previously had to scrap some 20 tyre casings a month. Once they started to fill their tyres with nitrogen, this number decreased to some 13 casings a month.
N2 escapes through tyre walls four times more slowly than oxygen (O2); and water vapour escapes 117 times more quickly than N2. N2 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 N2 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,” he explains, “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.”
Sowry concluded, “We are extremely proud of our 21-year track record in the commercial transportation sector, and look forward to many more years supplying N2 generators for N2 tyre inflation – with all its attendant benefits – to our valued transportation customers.”