If you are in charge of recycling facility operations, odds are you know the importance of addressing the details. Any machinery operating in recycling facilities, particularly those handling scrap metals, naturally should be protected against damage. In particular, vehicles used in material handling, such as skid-steers, should be equipped with tires that are best suited for their operating environment.

Tire suppliers typically have a good idea as to what recyclers should look for in a skid-steer tire.

Solid performers

“You only see solid tires on them anymore,” says Jerry S. Bruner, president of Advance Tire Inc., Millstone, New Jersey, of the tires commonly used on skid-steers that work in scrap yards. “It’s very rare you go in and find anything else,” he says. “They used to run foam-filled, but they all pretty much converted over.”

Larry Sargent, who is the registered Georgia-based agent for Setco Solid Tire & Rim Assemblies, headquartered in Idabel, Oklahoma, agrees with this assessment, adding that solid tires tend to be a safe, all-purpose option for scrap yards as well as for material recovery facilities (MRFs).

“They pretty much have to [use solid tires] because of production,” Sargent says. “If the machine runs a pneumatic style tire, with all the glass and steel [commonly found on-site], the machine will be down. Obviously [at] a [scrap] metal plant, there’s a greater need; but, there again, it’s about productivity for them.”

He continues, “Anything can cause a flat in a pneumatic tire—a nail or a bolt. Even some plastics are sharp and hard; they can puncture the tire.”

Bruner says, “There are different wear rates, depending on what they’re recycling. But pretty much you’d be very hard pressed to walk into any type of processing type recycling operation, whether it be paper, glass, plastic, steel, and not find a solid tire on a skid-steer machine.”

However, according to Bruce Besancon, vice president of marketing for Alliance Tire Americas Inc., Wakefield, Massachusetts, solid tires may not fit every operation’s needs.

“While they are excellent and recommended in extremely harsh conditions—such as broken concrete with rebar, harsh steel debris, etc.—they typically don’t have the same traction, ride [or] speed capabilities of a pneumatic tire,” he says.

“Another consideration is that pneumatic tires, even those that are foam filled, will tend to have a smoother, less-jarring ride for both the operator and the machine,” Besancon continues. “And, if you have operators who are in a machine for extended periods, this may become very important for productivity of the operator and maintenance issues on the machine.”

However, solid tires are available in models that offer a softer ride than traditional tires of this type do. This can be accomplished with air holes in the tire or by using different rubber compounds that offer more flexibility and shock absorption.

Standard approach

“Having a fleet of identical skid-steer machines can make life easier for the owner,” Besancon says. “In this case, the tire sizes are the same, and therefore there is a great deal of interchangeability with both the machines, operators and tires.”

He continues, “If tires are stocked by the user, there is no question if something will fit. If there are maintenance issues … it makes ordering much easier.”

Besancon adds, “The great thing about skid-steers is that though there are several tire dimension offerings, there are really two or three that are most common to all.”

He lists the most commonly used dimensions for pneumatic tires as:

  • 10 inches in width with a 16.5-inch wheel diameter; and
  • 12 inches in width with a 16.5-inch wheel diameter.

Besancon says the solid tire equivalent dimensions are:

  • 31 inches high by 10 inches wide with a rim diameter of 20 inches; and
  • 33 inches high by 10 inches wide with a rim diameter of 20 inches.

Enjoy the ride

Besancon says solid tires have “relatively few” drawbacks. “However, it cannot be stressed enough that one should choose the right tire for the right machine and application.”

He continues, “The solid tire will typically come with a rim and is very heavy due to the weight of all the rubber. It is also on the higher side of the cost equation. Next in cost you would have a foam-filled pneumatic tire.”

Other factors affect the skid-steer’s performance apart from its tires. Fuel efficiency, for example, hinges more on the driver’s habits than on the type of tire used on the machine.

“What affects the fuel efficiency the most is the operator,” Bruner says. “It’s just like driving your car. You put your foot on the gas all the time, then your fuel efficiency’s not going to be so good. If you drive like a sane person, then you’re going to get better gas mileage.”

Sargent says a skid-steer “may use a little more fuel, in my opinion, but it’s still a workhorse. Whether it has pneumatic tires or solid tires, it’s still a powerful machine. Its going to use a lot of fuel.”

What about other performance factors? Could the type of tire affect the skid-steer’s turning radius?

“Not necessarily,” Sargent says. “A skid-steer’s going to skid.”

He adds that tires will affect traction. “A lot of your recycling plants have a concrete floor, and they run a smooth-treaded tire. That lasts longer but also enables that machine to skid more smoothly … a real aggressive grip-style tire will cause that machine to bounce when it skids because it’s trying to grab. Most of your recycling plants that are indoors will run a smooth-treaded tire.”

According to Bruner, a major drawback to a skid-steer is its lack of suspension. In such cases, it may be prudent to outfit the vehicle with cushioned solid tires, or aperture tires.

“The only type of suspension that’s in that machine is the tire,” Bruner says. “It doesn’t have shocks like your car. So if you put a solid [tire] on it that has no give to it, a solid [tire] that has no holes, then the machine is going to ride very hard. All that shock is going to get transferred into the drivetrain and the machine itself. Over time, you’re going to shake things apart, including your operator.”

He adds, “The cushioned solids are the next generation. They came out about 15-plus years ago. They pretty much dominate the market now.”

Whatever form they take, solid tires appear to be a solid choice for most recycling operations.

The author is an intern with the Recycling Today Media Group.