Lighter weight forged aluminum wheels benefit current and future customers with increased efficiency and lower operating costs for fleet owners and managers.

By Merrick Murphy

Trends over the past few decades reveal the steady increase in demand for aluminum wheels versus steel, with penetration increasing in all categories, and fleets of all sizes recognizing the advantages.  Government regulations are adding to the push for aluminum as the best solution for fuel and freight efficiency. In response, aluminum wheel manufacturers are increasingly focused on designing solutions to meet customer demands.

Refuse fleet owners and managers are spec’ing trucks with a focus on increasing performance and efficiency while lowering weight and maintenance costs. Managers need and want to focus on running their businesses, not on maintaining their vehicles. Therefore, when selecting features for their vehicles, like wheels, fleet managers want the process to be simple while making sure quality is not compromised for weight savings. They need to feel confident in a solutions provider with a history of inventing revolutionary breakthroughs that continually raise the bar.

Witnessing the Value

Buying lighter weight forged aluminum wheels is a no brainer when comparing maintenance, performance, efficiency and appearance to steel wheels. Also, as gas and diesel prices remain a continued focus and freight efficiency becomes more critical, the urgency for equipment to find solutions that contribute value becomes greater than ever—not only in North America, but also all over the world.

A recent study conducted by a third party testing agency and following SAE J1321 standardized fuel consumption test procedures, found that aluminum wheels can improve fuel economy by 1.9 percent over steel wheels in a 35 mph stop and go test cycle. Since fuel is historically the single largest operating cost to fleets and most refuse fleets undergo stop and go route cycles, savings on this expense drop immediately to the bottom line. Whether for last mile delivery or for applications that experience stop and go, a nearly 2 percent fuel economy improvement can really add up.

Maintenance is also a priority among equipment managers in the refuse and recycling segment. Forged aluminum wheels offer reliable strength that significantly lowers maintenance effort and furthers the life of the equipment. Aluminum wheels do not require the continual that refurbishing steel wheels do: removing rust, re-painting or other labor-intensive actions. In addition, aluminum wheels are not painted like steel wheels, eliminating the need for touch ups. These additional maintenance steps result in higher overall lifetime costs.

Save on Weight, Gain on Efficiency and Resale

Refuse and recycling equipment managers should consider overall lifetime operating costs when spec’ing wheels on new equipment since forged aluminum wheels can improve quick and continuous “payback” in fuel savings or freight productivity combined with maintenance savings over the life of the truck. Forged aluminum wheels’ strength, durability and low weight deliver environmental advantages to complement their financial benefits. With larger payloads due to the weight savings, trips are reduced, and, since forged aluminum wheels are infinitely recyclable, they will never see a landfill.

Third party research also confirms that aluminum wheels retain 75 percent of their resale value even after up to 10 years of use. So when you couple freight efficiency and fuel economy with lower lifetime operating costs and payback of vehicle resale, the smart money is on aluminum wheels.

Curbing Damage and Rim Flange Wear

A hot topic among equipment managers is curbing damage. Forged aluminum wheels are significantly stronger than steel wheels and offer the strength to improve maintenance and further the life of the equipment. And in hostile environments where curbs and potholes are the norm, forged aluminum wheels stand up to stay stronger for longer. Additionally, some types of aluminum wheels feature a specially treated rim flange that extends wheel service life for heavy haul and shifting load applications. This design feature makes these protected wheels most appropriate for applications where loads are heavy and prone to shifting, causing tire walls to rub against the wheel rims.

The past few years have brought many new breakthroughs into the commercial transportation space and suppliers are always working on innovations in product design, manufacturing, alloy and finishes.  New wheel products benefit current and future customers with innovations that increase efficiency and lower operating costs for fleet owners and managers.

Merrick Murphy is President of Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products (Cleveland, OH). Arconic Wheel and Transportation Products serves the commercial vehicle market with products used in a range of applications including forged aluminum wheels such as Ultra ONE® with MagnaForce® alloy, Dura-Bright®, Dura-Flange®, LvL ONE® and M-Series® medium duty truck wheels, as well as a variety of other complementary accessory products for those markets.  For more information, visit