DENVER, Col. – As of this past September, a new tire traction device has been approved for use on B.C.’s highways, permitting truckers to slip on some ‘snow socks’ to get through those icy, snow-covered roads.
One of the producers of this alternative to chains is AutoSock, a privately owned Norwegian research company that was established in 1998 and had its textile-based tire traction product approved by the TUV (Germany’s Technical Inspection Association) in 2001.
Chuck McGee, AutoSock’s president of U.S. distribution, said the need for something other than chains came about due to technological advancements in vehicles, such as ABS brakes and various traction control systems.
“We decided that there was an opportunity to use it (AutoSock) for trucks also because they have some of the same issues,” McGee said of the technological similarities between cars and transport trucks.
McGee said AutoSock had to prove that its product was able to garner as much if not better traction than chains, both for starting and stopping, as well as lateral control.
“You have a product that has constant road contact, so you’ve always got something on the road that is going to give the trucker traction,” he said, “whereas a chain, you have a link that hits the road, then you have a blank space.”
Jamie Hagen, a trucker based in Aberdeen, S.D., who pulls a food-grade tanker for Cliff Viessman Inc. in the Midwest and West of the U.S. and most of Canada, said he’s been using AutoSock for five winters now and couldn’t be more satisfied with the product.
“In my personal experience, I believe they are better than chains for grip on the highway,” Hagen said. “My (experience) is from the many times I’ve been on extremely slippery road conditions where chain users seem to be having troubles climbing the grade, and I had zero issues.”
Hagen said that in addition to AutoSock’s performance, their ease of use was very beneficial, but did point out that if there was a disadvantage to the new technology, it was that chains had more of an ability to dig, and could therefore better pull a truck out of a sinking or stuck situation than could an AutoSock.
McGee echoed AutoSock’s ease of use, saying a pair of chains takes around 45 minutes to install, while AutoSock takes just a few minutes.
“That’s a big deal for truckers,” he said, adding that a driver had recently been killed in Colorado while mounting tire chains when a car slid into him. “(AutoSock) creates a lot less exposure on the road. You just put them on and you’re ready to go.”
McGee said AutoSock is probably the most tested traction product on the market, and that one of its key features was that it worked with a vehicle’s traction control systems, while when drivers employ the use of chains, they are advised to disable ‘one of the better technologies out there.’
McGee said the maximum speed truckers can drive while using AutoSock was 20 miles per hour, or 32 km/hr, which he admitted was slower than the recommended maximum of 30 miles per hour when using chains.
As for the product’s longevity, McGee said one of the requirements from the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) was that AutoSock stand up to use on dry pavement for 100 miles driving at the maximum recommended speed, which they did.
Thus far, McGee said AutoSock has sold about 2.5 million units worldwide, and that with more and more states allowing for their usage (in addition to the U.S. Postal Service), Canadian provinces, like B.C., were starting to take a look due to the ‘snow sock’s’ light weight, ease of use, effectiveness and compatibility with electronic control systems.
“One of the comments we had when we were working with CDOT,” McGee said, “one of their engineers said that if AutoSock had been invented before tire chains were invented, no one would even consider using a tire chain because (AutoSock) offers so many features that aren’t available on a chain.”
AutoSock will be distributed in B.C. through Fleet Brake, JPW Road and Bridge and Shift Products. For trucks, AutoSock ranges in price from $199USD to $226USD.
Written by Derek Clouthier