Servicing Coal Mines Takes Teamwork
King Tire Partners With OTR Tire Supplier to Optimize Tire Life
Building a tire to service coal mines takes a team. That’s what King Tire Service Inc. of Bluewell, W.Va., and Yokohama Tire Corp. discovered while working with several coal mining companies throughout West Virginia to develop an OTR tire, the Yokohama Y67 IND-3, some 10 years ago.
Severe terrain — plus the workloads and demands that coal mines impose on tires — can add up to multiple tire changes, according to officials from King Tire, which has 13 locations and employs nearly 200 people.
Coal mines and natural gas companies make up nearly 60% of the dealership’s business. The company has six employees who report directly to customers’ mines on a daily basis.
King Tire also operates two, dedicated underground mining tire shops.
King Tire officials say they work closely with Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America Inc. (YOHTA) to help maximize the life of customers’ tires through after-sale service. (Earlier this year, Yokohama Tire Corp. decoupled from its OTR tire business, which now operates under the YOHTA banner.)
Adam Turner, OTR district sales manager at YOHTA, says he usually goes with King Tire representatives and members of his company’s sales team to mines, where they talk with equipment maintenance managers.
“We sit down with them and then look at some of the tires that came out of the mine,” he says.
“We are looking for any specific issues. And if we can’t solve the problem then, I will take pictures or possibly take a tire back to the dealership’s shop, where I will bring up an engineering team to take a look.”
Turner says the information they gather is priceless and can be used to develop a new product or a new maintenance procedure that will save the client money and help it to not go through as many tires so quickly.
King Tire employees also work on above-ground vehicles at mine sites, too.
Chris Rule, operations manager at King Tire, says his people “work with mechanics on-site to service vehicles. These are big operations.”
And tire technology is always changing.
“Everyone is always trying to build a better mousetrap,” says Rule. “Surface and underground tires have different compounds, based on (service) conditions. If a tire is a short-haul product, it will have a more cut- and chip-resistant compound.
“If it’s a long-haul tire, you will need a different compound — more natural rubber, rather than synthetic.”
For tracking purposes, King Tire brands and dates all of the underground mining tires it sells.
The Yokohama Y67 IND-3 is an example of the work King Tire and Yokohama did to get enhanced ingenuity into the field, according to Rule.
He says the machinery that King Tire’s mining customers were using pushed the limit of existing tires. And that was when they ere running unloaded.
Adding coal and the fact that machines had to travel over rock only compounded the problem.
Yokohama took existing tire molds and modified them, says Rule.
“They kept the mold, put a four-inch spacer band in the middle, and voila — they had a wider tire at the same height.”
The new tire also sported a wider footprint to “spread the weight out to carry a little bit more load,” says Turner.
Another challenge was making the tire more durable.
“The compounding that we came out with was like a bowling ball compound, because you couldn’t destroy it,” says Turner.
“The secret sauce is the compounding. It’s kind of like baking a cake.”
Officials from both King Tire and YOHTA say staying in close contact with mining operations is critical.
“And that isn’t just for new tires,” says Turner. “It’s to make present products even better.”
In the mining business, there is always something new to think about, he adds.
King Tire and its supplier are “looking for constant feedback — what we can do differently to make this even better.”