There is a way to reduce risk and prevent five-figure mining tyres from living a short and costly life – preventative maintenance repair. Vanessa Zhou visits TyreDoctor’s New South Wales repair facility to find out how the company facilitates this maintenance strategy.
It is barely 10 degrees Celsius at TyreDoctor’s tyre repair centre in Leeton, New South Wales on a winter Tuesday.
TyreDoctor co-director and tyre repair manager Harvey Hester is inspecting injuries in a row of 63-inch mining truck tyres in the open yard as the brisk wind continues to blow at close to 20 kilometres an hour.
This sight may be puzzling for some. Why does a person in Hester’s senior position remain so hands on, supervising each and every tyre that comes into this large and busy operation, when the team is particularly busy with the opening of a tyre repair facility in Mackay, Queensland?
In fact, there are up to 330 ultra-class mining tyres repaired at the Leeton facility each month.
Just one injury requires a multi-step process, including cutting out, filling, patching, cooking and shaping in the tyre workshop, to achieve the post-repair quality and outcome required by mining companies. Most tyres that come to the facility even have multiple injuries to attend to.
Hester’s first-hand involvement in tyre repairs is just “standard daily operations” at TyreDoctor, a second-generation family-run business founded by his father and senior director Sel Hester in 1986.
When Sel Hester started his business, its focus was to provide hot vulcanised tyre repairs for the agricultural industry and earthmoving contractors through the Riverina region of New South Wales.
With 32 years’ experience, TyreDoctor has perfected the craft of hot vulcanisation, a technique that requires an in-depth understanding of tyre construction and first-hand knowledge of the harsh operating conditions in mining environments, both on the surface and underground.
Fast forward three decades and TyreDoctor has evolved into a full-service off-the-road (OTR) tyre and rim specialist with a customer base that includes Glencore, BHP, Evolution Mining, Yancoal and Peabody Energy.
Although the company has found its place working with some of Australia’s largest mining corporations, it still continues to service the agricultural sector.
The agricultural industry has helped put TyreDoctor on the tyre repair map, and the mining industry took notice in due course. For this reason, the company remains loyal to the agricultural industry, according to Hester.
“Agricultural tyres are all small by comparison, so you’re getting only a third of the money for doing one of them compared with a mining tyre repair. But agriculture got us started on the road to where we are today, and we’ll always appreciate that,” he tells Safe to Work.
The range of work that falls under TyreDoctor’s watch demonstrates the company’s capacity to provide hot vulcanised repair of OTR tyres in sizes ranging from 16 to 63 inches.
TyreDoctor sends technicians from its OTR repair team to major sites for pre-repair inspections each month, ensuring that each repair is viable before the tyre leaves the site.
This is done to avoid wasting transport resources on tyres with injuries that are deemed unfit for repair.
“The beauty of preventative repairs is recognising a tyre injury when trucks can still be driven safely to a spot to carry out removal and repairs,” Hester says.
“Today’s trucks are running faster, their tyres are designed to go quicker, and mining operators are driven by production key performance indicators (KPIs) to transport more product and achieve a maximum output.”
This puts a lot of strain on certain parts of a tyre considering today’s mine designs are characterised by sharp corners and steep declines, Hester continues.
Harsh mining conditions put excessive weight on a truck’s front tyres over their recommended load capacity, while having to endure a longer running time.
As tyre temperature increases, the instance of tyre separation becomes far more prevalent, Hester says.
“A separation inside a tyre is caused by an untreated impact into the tyre’s tread, allowing moisture and other elements to get in and enlarge the injury as the truck is being put into use,” Hester explains.
“Separation causes friction, which leads to heat and possibly a thermal failure event. If the original injury had been caught and tended to, a mining operator would have been able to prevent this safety hazard and the tyre wouldn’t have to go into disposal.”
This is where preventative repairs come in and play a part in avoiding the serious consequences that come with an unrectified tyre injury.
A minor problem can pose dangers to the truck driver and other road users, cause premature failure and prevent the mine site from achieving the proper tyre life expectancy, loading capacity and haul performance.
In comparison, a preventative repair program prevents mining operations from experiencing tyres failures and the consequences for lost production over the long term.
Hester believes that every mobile fleet maintenance team needs to have the awareness and training to recognise the potential dangers of leaving a tyre injury untreated.
The tyre crew, meanwhile, needs to be aware of the production demands imposed by a mining operator. This will then facilitate better collaboration between the two teams, according to Hester.
“The reason why a tyre crew or tyre management team need to keep up with today’s preventative repair needs is to stop a tyre injury from suddenly becoming an unnecessary failure and the possibility of a disaster occurring,” Hester explains.
“Ultimately, a tyre is quite simply a pressure vessel. It involves huge loads and forces, and its potential for a safety incident is very, very real.
“Understanding and implementing preventative maintenance tyre repairs should be a core function in the tyre management of any mining operation. It’s critical for operational safety and creates significant scope for operational savings at the same time. It’s a win-win scenario, but you have to have proper understanding and commitment across both the maintenance and production teams to make it happen.”
This forms the foundation of TyreDoctor’s preventative maintenance repair programs on 57- and 63-inch tyres for major mining fleets.
TyreDoctor works with site teams to build an understanding of the tyre repair process and what it can achieve, while customising key factors such as inspection timing, repair lead times and transport schedules to support implementation at the site.
Safe means to a safe end
TyreDoctor has purpose-built its OTR repair facility with custom-designed tyre handling equipment that challenges the standard of OTR tyre repair operations in Australia.
The company has, in fact, invested in advanced technology and custom solutions to carry out its tyre repairs with uncompromising precision.
Its tyre repair hoists, for one, is bred from in-house design and aims to make tyre repairs safe and efficient, featuring automatic ability to elevate, rotate and put down ultra-class tyres weighing up to 6.5 tonnes.
The only time a tyre comes on and off the hoist is when it arrives in the workshop or finishes its repair.
A tyre under TyreDoctor’s inspection will stay on the hoist at all other times, with minimal handling being a critical factor in ensuring safety during repair.
“We couldn’t find anything in the market that fulfils these needs, so we designed the hoist and engineered all the critical components ourselves,” Hester says.
“Though it doesn’t look like anything remarkable, the hoist allows us to lift a tyre up on a stand and out of the way without any risk of the tyre moving or lowering, even if there is hydraulic failure. That’s one of TyreDoctor’s own unique designs.”
TyreDoctor also eliminates all chances of cross contamination from dirty tyres by putting them through a wash bay before entering the workshop, as “nothing comes in the workshop dirty.”
In a separate but adjoining facility, TyreDoctor’s wheel and rim repair workshop also features an automated shot blasting chamber.
The hi-tech machine gives a better and faster result than the more traditional sandblasting process does, while taking people right out of the line of danger, according to TyreDoctor development manager Jay Stewart.
The automated blasting chamber uses steel shot to completely strip a rim and have it ready for non-destructive testing within eight minutes, instead of the average 45 minutes required by manual sand-blasting procedure, he continues.
The cherry on the cake for TyreDoctor’s tyre and wheel repair service customers is the gate-to-gate service the company provides.
TyreDoctor has its own fleet of ultra-class tyre transport rigs and on-site fitting trucks that can handle up to 63-inch tyres.
“Operating our own dedicated fleet is certainly not the cheapest freight option out there, but we proved time and again it’s the only way to provide a complete solution and retain full control of our service lead times,” Stewart says.
“As a service provider, we need to ensure we can provide a reliable, timely service from pick up right through to the delivery back to the site. This is as important to being a dependable partner as our tyre repair expertise.
“We recognise that transport and supply chain reliability is often half the battle in a mining operation, so we decided that it’s not an option to be dependent on third parties for such a critical part of our service operations.”
Within one site visit by Safe to Work, TyreDoctor has effortlessly demonstrated its standout tyre repair expertise.
The company takes no heed of a one-size-fits-all approach, but continues to evolve and take in new possibilities and approaches to tyre and wheel repair needs across the mining sector.
After all, a company director that takes on the role of a tyre repair manager should ensure a custom solution is adopted for each unique case.
And the case for preventative repairs is certainly not a fad, but a proven service strategy founded on expert knowledge in the tyre repair space.
This article also appears in the October–Dec edition of Safe to Work.