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September 02, 2010  |   Comments (0)   |   Post a comment

Is Your Fleet Ready for Winter?

The season’s weather can create dangerous driving conditions for employees and slippery bus steps for students, but products are available to help eliminate these hazards. Manufacturers of automatic tire chains, a traction sander and a step heater discuss their features, safety benefits and installation options.

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Onspot of North America Inc.

The design of Onspot of North America’s Automatic Tire Chain System enables two chains to be positioned between the tire and the road surface. The system works while driving in forward or reverse.

A second option to improve tire traction in snowy or icy driving conditions is to outfit buses with automatic tire chains. The fact that Onspot of North America specializes in manufacturing these chains is one of the company’s greatest strengths, President Patrick Freyer says.


The Onspot Automatic Tire Chain System, which can be installed on Thomas Built, Blue Bird and IC Bus units, permanently mounts on a bus’ rear suspension.

When the driver activates a dashboard switch, the system’s chainwheel descends and rotates, and the chains branch out in front of the tire.

Six lengths of chain on the chainwheel ensure that there are always two chains between the tire and the road surface. Increased traction is obtained while driving in forward or reverse.

Freyer says that the Onspot system is safer than conventional chains on several levels.

“You’re not getting out of the vehicle [to put on chains] and leaving it unattended, and it could conceivably save a life,” he explains. “If you’re in a school bus that’s sliding down an icy hill, you can turn on a switch and in two seconds have chains on.”

He adds that tests have shown that the system can help to reduce stopping distance by as much as 20 percent.

In addition to the Onspot system’s safety benefits, it has durable components. Freyer says that replacement parts may need to be purchased at some point due to normal wear (Onspot sells all of the parts), but the system itself will typically last the life of the vehicle.

“We supply what we feel is the best material in the business as far as steel, anodized cans, swing arms and reinforced air cylinders,” Freyer says. “For the chains, we use what we call ‘through-hardened steel alloy.’”

For customers who want to install the system as a retrofit, Freyer says they simply need to measure the bus and Onspot will supply a kit with a full set of installation instructions. He notes that Onspot’s ability to provide a customized system sets it apart from other automatic tire chain suppliers, and he says that the company will provide installation training upon request.

RUD-Chain Inc.

The Classic version of RUD-Chain Inc.’s Rotogrip Automatic Tire Chain System features an adjustable mounting system, enabling the installer to position the chainwheel accurately. This helps to achieve optimum performance.

RUD-Chain Inc. manufactures three Rotogrip Automatic Tire Chain systems, all of which are ISO 9001-certified. The Classic version is the model most commonly used on school buses.


While the system operates similarly to other automatic tire chain systems (the flip of a switch installed in the vehicle’s cab activates the chainwheel, which then engages with the tire, and the chains fan out to provide traction), its mounting system is different.

The universal mounting system is adjustable, which allows the installer to easily position the chainwheel accurately, helping to achieve optimum performance, according to Rick Ransom, Rotogrip product manager.

The universal mounting system also enables the Rotogrip Classic system to fit a wide range of vehicles.

The Rotogrip Classic system works when the driver is operating the vehicle in forward or reverse, and it provides traction at speeds as low as 3 to 4 mph.

Ransom notes that Rotogrip tire chain systems are high quality and designed to last. “It is not unusual for an end user to get 10 years out of a system,” he says. “The first system that we installed over 20 years ago is still in service.”

The Rotogrip wheels feature square steel link chains and replaceable wear rings. The spring-mounted chains help during low-speed operation and can also improve traction during incremental braking.

Ransom says that the Rotogrip Classic system is installed at the OEM level and through the company’s network of dealers, but he adds that it can be installed as a retrofit.

“The installation process takes four to five hours, and RUD-Chain offers installation training and support services,” he says.

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