Matching tires to operational challenges faced every day.

Seth Walters

Even a paper sorting facility is tough on tires. With the exception of the occasional broken pallet or debris, there are few of the puncture hazards that threaten tire life at demo facilities and many other solid waste handling centers. Instead, tires at Plainville, CT-based CWPM Waste Removal and Recycling Services’ paper sorting and baling facility suffer a steady grind into oblivion on concrete tipping floors and outdoor lots.

With its tight turns, quick spins and constant forward-and-reverse motion, a Bobcat S510 skid steer at CWPM’s Plainville recycling center—one of more that 200 vehicles in the CWPM fleet—has provided a perfect test vehicle for tire durability over the past several years.

“If we can put tires on that Bobcat, it’s pretty much like putting tires on NASCAR,” laughs Carl Oberg, Transfer Station Division Operations Manager for CWPM, which services Connecticut and Rhode Island. “Our Bobcat driver is a great driver, but this guy’s spinning around on a dime,” he adds. “You could put steel tires on that Bobcat and he could show you how they go.”

Right Tire for the Job

Oberg strongly believes in matching tires to the challenges they face every day. “You want the right set of tires for where you are,” he explains. “If you are in a demo pile, you need one set of tires. If you’re in bunks on a flat floor, that’s another tire because they’re not really running over anything that’s going to tear them up.”

Foam-filled tires provide a middle ground between puncture-prone pneumatic tires and heavy solid tires. For sizes that are not available as solids—for instance, less-common sizes used on backhoes—Oberg buys conventional tires and has them pumped tightly with expanding polyurethane foam. The foam eliminates the risk of flats from puncture, but does not improve tread life, he notes. “When you go to foam-filled tires, you can’t run them as long,” Oberg says. “When you go to solids, you can run them right down to the apertures.”

In fact, Oberg notes, on his skid steers. “We try to run a smooth tire ‘till death’s door in the summer and then put on knobby ones for the winter season. It’s the smooth tires we get the most wear out of, but in the winter, out of the building, it’s like putting slicks on your car.”

Put to the Test

Even solid tires can deliver strikingly different performance depending on tread design, construction and rubber compound. Tire manufacturers balance as many as two dozen ingredients in compound—including natural rubber, synthetic rubber, silica, carbon black, antiozonants, anti-aging ingredients and others—to achieve the qualities they are looking for. Gains in traction may be offset by reduced resistance to abrasion, or vice-versa, and each tire and application requires a search for a sweet spot between resistance to chunking and resistance to scrubbing. In addition, different elements of a tire can be made of different compounds, each optimized for the role it plays.

Since 2014, Oberg has seen the impact of compound development from the front row. Ed Flatten, Alliance Tire Americas’ North American Sales Manager for Solid Tires, notes that Oberg and the CWPM team have been valuable partners in the effort to test the growing Galaxy Severe Duty Solid (SDS) line for two years before their official launch, and in the years since.

In fact, Flatten brought Oberg the second set of Galaxy SDS tires imported to the U.S.—solid prototypes of the company’s classic Beefy Baby tread pattern—for testing. That tire has since become extremely popular in muddy applications like dairy barns and construction sites. A follow-up trial with prototypes of the block-tread Galaxy Hulk SDS more than doubled the service life on CWPM’s concrete floors, Flatten says thanks largely to a combination of added scrub resistance in the compound and the high rubber-to-tread ratio of the dense lug pattern.

But Oberg and Flatten set their sights higher. “After discussions with Carl, he and I agreed to set a goal of finding a tread design and compound that could achieve 1,000 hours,” Flatten says. “Based on the first set of Hulks, we knew we were close to the right compound, and we decided to test the 31/10-20 size Galaxy Super Smooth. Those tires surpassed our target by exceeding 1,194 hours. After revising the compound once more, the second set of Galaxy Super Smooth tires attained 1,455 hours.”

It is About Cost

Oberg notes that 1,455 hours is nearly twice as much service life as he had achieved with his previous standard for skid steer tires. To him, that is a clear sign of success—and the signature of a great rubber compound. Oberg looks at how long he can run a set of tires, a measure that is far more telling than their sticker price. A comparably priced tire that delivers twice the service life of an alternative choice is a benefit that goes directly to the bottom line, and it adds up quickly.

Encouraged by his experience on the front lines of Alliance’s testing program, Oberg is encouraging the company to extend its SDS line to include larger solid tires for backhoes and loaders. He is optimistic that a move to solids on those machines would yield a tremendous return on his tire investment. “This is business,” he says. “It’s all about cost. By the end of the year, if you’ve bought fewer tires—even if you’re paying a little bit more for a set—you’ve saved money.”

Seth Walters is Vice President—Aftermarket Sales (East) for Alliance Tire Americas (Wakefield, MA). With a bachelor’s and master’s degree in industrial engineering, he has led sales, supply chain, operations and marketing initiatives for Alliance. He can be reached at [email protected] or (205) 322-7001. For more on Alliance, Galaxy and Primex tires, visit