Bridgestone, through its flagship tyre brand Firestone, is partnering with agricultural co-operatives across South Africa to deliver massive fuels savings from improved commercial vehicle tyre usage, particularly tractors, through its first National Education Campaign and Ballasting Clinics throughout the 2020 summer planting season.
Ballasting of industrial vehicle tyres involves increasing a machine’s load by adding weight to the tyre, so that it is more stable in tipping and hauling. With the tyre manufacturer’s consent, operators add physical weights or ballast tyres by injecting them with a mixture of water and a non-corrosive antifreeze.
“We have always taken on the responsibility to inform and teach customers about the correct usage of our products,” says Stephan van Staden, National Agri Specialist at Bridgestone South Africa. “This, however, is the first time we are providing formal training and education as we realised that incorrect ballasting of these industrial tyres is a huge problem in the industry where farmers will either ballast too heavily or inflate tyres using incorrect pressure, which erodes the tyres and places strain on vehicles.
“With the both tyre costs and the fuel price on a consistently upward trend, correcting this one element in operations can save farmers as much as 25% of their fuel costs. If a farmer works a 1000-hectare farm, a 20% fuel saving is a lot of money relative to other costs,” he says.
Ballasting Clinics will kick off in the Highveld region in Mpumalanga where owners and operators of surrounding farms are invited to audio-visual presentations and demonstrations on the correct ballasting technique and science. Firestone partners with machinery manufacturer John Deere, AFRGRI and other co-operatives local to each area.
The training will also stress the importance of tread patterns and how using the correct tyre for the specific application ensures the tyre can carry the intended load.
Also, audiences are warned against mixing different types of tyres such as cross-ply and radial tyres on the same vehicles.
“During the demonstrations, we start by weighing the tractors, which allows us to measure the static load radius of each tyre, which determines the ballasting and tyre pressure we would need to use,” van Staden, says. “Tyres aren’t cheap and by employing the correction practices, they can go further while maintaining fuel efficiency and smooth operation of vehicles, which further controls maintenance and other operational costs.”
Farmers will have the opportunity to call a ballasting team from Firestone to conduct onsite ballasting consultation specific to their equipment and tyres. Clinics have already been successfully completed in Bethlehem and Bloemfontein in the Free State, as well as Bethal in Mpumalanga. An upcoming clinic is scheduled for the Grootvlei region in Mpumalanga during the first quarter of 2020, followed by clinics in Western Cape and Limpopo.