Of all the components on a commercial vehicle, tyres are one of the more critical items, as their reliability affects not only the vehicle’s performance but its safety as well. National heavy duty transporter Jabula Plant Hire is keenly aware of this and, for this reason, takes proactive steps to make sure that tyre life and performance are maximised.
Founded in 1995, Jabula Plant Hire has grown to be one of South Africa’s top five earthmoving and mining commodity logistics companies, on the strength of its innovative solutions and superior service. While a large part of its operations are in contract mining services, the company also helps keep South Africa’s lights on by transporting coal from the mines to the various power stations they supply.
Jabula’s head office is in Heidelberg with branches at Rietspruit, Bethal, Witbank and Leandra. At the Leandra site, Danie Els is Maintenance Manager.
“In this business, reliability is the key. To ensure unfailing reliability, we purchase new vehicles only and our trucks are replaced every 3 years. Similarly, when it comes to tyres, we insist that all of our 153 heavy transport vehicles and 70 earth-moving machines have their tyres inflated with nitrogen,” Els explains.
“This is not only prevents failures but, as tyres are a very significant expense for Jabula, the extended tyre life we get from nitrogen inflation results in significant financial savings,” he adds.
Jabula has been filling its transportation and earth-moving vehicles with nitrogen from nitrogen generator supplier NitraLife since 2008.
NitraLife launched its business in 1996, and was very much a pioneer in the field of nitrogen tyre inflation locally; as well as being the first supplier of generators for nitrogen tyre inflation to the commercial transportation sector.
Jabula purchased its first NitraLife nitrogen generator in 2008, which was installed at the company’s Rietspruit site. Eight years later, in 2016, the company opened its Leandra depot and almost immediately installed another NitraLife generator at this site.
Nitrogen tyre inflation brings many advantages says Els, explaining that it prevents premature tyre failures, eliminating tyre bursts and tread separation among many other things.
NitraLife’s Operations Manager Twayne Stewart explains that since its founding in 1996, NitraLife has established that transportation sector companies can save between 5 – 30 % on their tyre costs - depending on fleet and load size, and distances travelled.
“Nitrogen escapes through tyre walls four times more slowly than oxygen and 117 times more slowly than water vapour. For this reason, nitrogen-inflated tyres hold consistent pressure for far longer,” Stewart explains.
“If tyres are under-inflated, they tend to flex and overheat - the heat build-up being a major cause of premature tyre failures,” he observes, adding that this becomes even more important if the tyres are under a heavy load and have to cover long distances.
Air contains oxygen and water vapour, two compounds which – over time – degrade tyre rubber. Once air is pumped into a tyre, water vapour is concentrated inside the casing and along with the action of oxygen, degrades the rubber and causes the steel within the tyre to corrode. This reduces the tyre’s ability to hold pressure and also leads to early casing failures.
By replacing these compounds with high-purity nitrogen, tyre casings are preserved and can be retreaded many more times than their air-filled counterparts. Also, stronger, longer-lasting casings mean a minimal rate of premature tyre failures.
Over the working lives of tyres, fine particles of rubber separate from the inside of the casing, creating rubber dust. When mixed with oxygen, this carbon-rich dust forms a highly combustible mix. Should the tyre be exposed to very high levels of heat - caused, for example, by binding brakes or a failing wheel bearing - the results could be potentially disastrous, particularly if the vehicle is transporting a load such as coal.
“Since we have used nitrogen tyre inflation, we have never had a tyre fire,” says Els. “Now, whenever we buy a new vehicle or earthmover, we immediately deflate their tyres and re-fill them with nitrogen,” he points out.
Apart from excellent performance and safety, a further aspect which has enhanced Jabula’s experience of nitrogen tyre inflation is the service that it receives from Nitralife.
“We pick up the phone and the next day – if not the same day – a NitraLife technician is here. The last time a NitraLife technician was here, he not only serviced the NitraLife compressor, but, without being asked, serviced our workshop compressor as well.
When we wanted to buy the compressor for our nitrogen generator, we requested quotes from various companies including the manufacturer of the compressor. But in the end, we got the best quote from NitraLife,” Els adds.
“We are proud of the very successful and long-standing relationship we have with our valued customer Jabula Plant Hire, and of the repeat-business and support which we have received from them,” comments Stewart.
“We are really committed to ensuring Jabula’s transportation operations continue to run smoothly for many years to come, on nitrogen-filled tyres which are safe and performing optimally,” adds Tom Sowry, Sales Director of NitraLife.
“In so doing, we are delighted to contribute to Jabula’s long-term success, and confirm that together we are ‘in it for the long haul,” Sowry concludes.