If you ask Wendy Cline, the federal government’s recently released discussion paper on the benefits of mandating tyre pressure monitoring systems (TPMS) is long overdue.
She just wishes that her late husband Chet Cline, who passed away in January 2022, was still here to see his years of campaigning for regulatory change closer than ever to a payoff.
The popular Big Rigs columnist, and award-winning inventor, is the brains behind the Air CTI system, which enables drivers to adjust a truck’s tyre pressure to suit the load and road, and the conditions, leading to better traction, tyre life, improved safety and fuel economy, among other benefits.
“If people only knew how many politicians he tried to get involved, and all the different meetings and all the different ways he tried to raise awareness about how the incorrect use of tyre pressure is causing such a big damage to the environment and how to people are operating – he was just driven to get that message home,” said Wendy, now the director and CEO of Air CTI, which Chet launched in 1998.
“Anyone that knew Chet knew that he could talk about this subject for many, many hours. He could feel it [the possibility of the federal government mandating the technology] and he knew that he’d done so much he thought, ‘Surely, it’s going to happen’, but then there’d be another barrier.”
Wendy said Chet, who also created a detailed white paper on the subject, had been instrumental in getting some of the information into the government’s discussion paper now being debated at the highest industry levels.
“His ultimate dream was to see the government and the transport industry recognise how important psi is in your tyre,” she said.
“Chet never wanted it mandatory so he could sell more Air CTI systems, he just wanted people to realise there was a better way to do it. Use my system, use something else, just get out there and let your tyres down.
“That was his aim, to raise awareness that we have load to inflation tables regarding what percentage of air you should have in your tyres but no one looks at it.
“Everyone goes out there and just shoves in a certain amount because that’s what they’ve done forever, whereas you should be changing your tyre pressure to suit whatever load weight you have to the road that you’re travelling on.”
In the discussion paper, tabled at a September meeting of the Vehicle Standards Consultative Committee (VSCC) in Canberra, the Department of Infrastructure and Transport said it sees regulating TPMS technology as an opportunity to “to improve safety, efficiency, and environmental outcomes in the heavy vehicle sector”.
The US has had a similar mandate in place since 2007, and European Union has extended a TPMS mandate to include heavy vehicles and trailers from 2024.
Heavy Vehicle Industry Australia (HVIA) said feedback from its members so far has been “overwhelmingly positive” toward the technology.
“These systems are positive for a wide number of reasons,” said HVIA technical director Adam Ritzinger.
“There are environmental, safety and efficiency benefits, and when you package all that up together that’s why the fleets who run TPMS are so positive about them.”
But Ritzinger also added that HVIA is yet to finalise its position regarding TPMS and needs to hold further detailed discussions with members.
“At this point the federal department wants to test the waters regarding local opinion and support because it is mandatory for some vehicle classes in Europe.
“The department is looking at other options for harmonisation with international regulations, which is a sensible thing to do.”
The Australian Trucking Association (ATA) said it recognises the importance of getting tyres right and correct tyre inflation.
“However, we have concerns about the workability of TPMS in Australia’s harsh conditions and given our unique combinations,” said ATA CEO Mathew Munro.
“While many operators choose to install TPMS, something that ATA would encourage in appropriate circumstances, it’s not ready to be a requirement for all trucks and trailers.
The department should hold off considering the technology for heavy vehicles until after it is mandated in our peer economies and industry has had the opportunity to review its performance there. At this stage, it would make sense for the department to look at TPMS for light vehicles only.”
A Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development, Communications and the Arts spokesperson said the department is consulting with peak industry bodies, state and territory regulators and other stakeholders on TPMS for all categories of vehicles.
“This broad consultation is intended to gather information to better understand the benefits, issues, current uptake and costs associated with fitting TPMS.
“Three options are being considered, including business as usual, and the outcomes of the consultation process will inform any decision on whether to regulate TPMS.”