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The construction season never takes a break for weather. In addition to monitoring tire pressures and tread depth, fleet managers can prepare for slippery road surfaces by selecting the proper snow/mud tire chains. Chains provide increased traction in mud, slush and snow and reduce operating costs by reducing the stress on u-joints and drive shafts and eliminating excessive tread wear resulting from overspin. Tire-chain design and construction have changed significantly over the past several years. Most fleets are using radial tires. A radial tire's tread design creates different rolling-off effect from that of bias tires. According to John Rodemeyer, service coordinator at Rud Chain Inc., Cedar Rapids, Iowa, the diamond-pattern chain has replaced the ladder-pattern chain as the best choice for fleet delivery trucks. "The diamond-pattern reduces the amount of chain in the tire tread's center by shortening cross lengths while increasing chain support on the tire's shoulder, giving better traction and a smoother ride," says Rodemeyer. The diamond-pattern design also lessens damage by positioning the support chain in a higher sidewall position away from the tire's high- flex area. Many times product delivery trucks encounter the greatest obstacles to safety and efficiency within the last several hundred feet. Installing automatic tire chains to a truck's chassis allows the driver increase traction faster than mounting conventional chains. The driver activates a dashboard switch to position a rubber chainwell against the tire's interior sidewall. The friction between the chainwell and the tire creates enough centrifugal force to flail the chains out in front of the tire. The chainwell's design ensures that chains lengths are between the tire and the road. The systems work in both forward and reverse. According to Al Cohn, Goodyear Tire's technical marketing director, producers should only use chains only on tire treads that have with a rib design. When applied to a lug tread design, chain use may reduce traction by rounding or "mushrooming" the lug's edge. Keys to successful tire chain use "There is no substitute for proper tire inflation procedures, especially in winter operations," says Cohn. Proper inflation helps maintain the proper cross-section so that chains will fit snugly when first applied, he says. "Too much pressure creates a bouncy ride, while too little pressure allows too much flexing." Install chains as snugly as possible. It is necessary to readjust chains after a short run-in period to maintain the snug fit. On dual-tire axles, maintain adequate spacing between each tire's chain. Radial tire deflection may require more space to avoid contact. Many snow chain assemblies are reversible. Turning the chains utilizes both legs of each chain link, extending chain life. Check chain assemblies after each use for broken links. KEYWORDS: Fleet management, tires