Michelin and Goodrich tires on a lifesaving mission: Riding tall, rugged for post-Ike rescues

Jan. 1, 2020
They specialize in tough duty, requiring tough tires able to withstand punctures from nails and all manner of sharp debris. On the battlefield, they’re called combat vehicles. But when Mother Nature hits and people are stranded by
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They specialize in tough duty, requiring tough tires able to withstand punctures from nails and all manner of sharp debris. On the battlefield, they’re called combat vehicles. But when Mother Nature hits and people are stranded by floodwaters, these big trucks with their big tires and high ground clearance get a different name.

National Guard units in some states call them high-water vehicles. Others describe them as high-clearance or high-wheeled. But whatever the acronymic moniker, governors, generals and other state disaster relief authorities place a high priority on mobilizing this motor pool when the waters rise – which is exactly what’s happening now along a wide swathe of the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Ike.

During domestic response missions, the big trucks plow through high water to rescue residents, carry boats that also help rescue people and bring food and water to the victims of calamities.

“These trucks are heavy as well as high, which means they are considerably less likely to float away,” says Master Sgt. Greg Rudl of the American Forces Press Service. “The LMTV, for example, weighs more than 13 tons.”

In late August, National Guard troops from several states pre-positioned more than 3,800 high-water vehicles in and around New Orleans as Hurricane Gustav bore down on the Big Easy.

Prior to Ike’s strike, with dire predictions coming in of five to 10 inches of rain, the Texas National Guard was busy assembling 900 personnel and 500 high-water vehicles in San Antonio for the major search-and-rescue missions currently in progress.

While as little as six inches of water can cause a car to lose control, and two feet can carry most cars away; most high-water vehicles can plow through several feet of water.

“The (light medium tactical) vehicle can carry up to 15 people and has a high ground clearance, which allows them operate in up to four feet of water,” says Army Lt. Col. Len Gratteri of the Delaware National Guard. In May the state deployed LMTVs following heavy rains and tidal flooding.

Manufactured by BAE Systems, the LMTV rides on Michelin 395/85 R20 XML All-terrain tires with CTIS, a central tire inflation system.

For emergency response, the Army Guard relies heavily on the LMTV and its 5-ton capacity. The cargo and van models have a 2.5-ton capacity. Both entered service in 1996, have automatic transmissions and run on jet fuel.

In August, Florida Army Guard soldiers drove through flooded roads in Osteen, Fla., searching for people needing assistance or evacuation due to the floodwaters from Tropical Storm Fay. Members of the 254th Transportation Battalion also used high-water vehicles post-Fay in four southern Florida counties to help emergency first-responders perform damage and flood assessment.

“The LMTV is very useful, because it is so versatile,” explains Army Sgt. 1st Class Robert Talent, a truckmaster for the battalion, helped with the assessment missions. He adds that LMTV drivers know and follow critical safety regulations whenever they go into threatening conditions.

Army National Guard logistics division officials report that the 54 states and territories under American command have 22,244 high-water vehicles, ranging from 1,159 in Pennsylvania to 15 in the Virgin Islands.

Everything from 2.5-ton trucks to the M977 heavy, expanded-mobility tactical truck, or HEMTT, are considered high-water vehicles; the cited totals don’t include the ubiquitous Humvee, which can ford through five feet of water when equipped with the proper kit.

The HEMTT, made by Oshkosh Truck Corp. arrives at the scene rolling on Michelin 16.00 R20 X2L tubeless-non-directional CTIS tires.

There are five HEMTT models, each standing more than eight feet tall. The lightest version weighs well over 30,000 pounds and is capable of conquering water up to four feet deep.

Although the Humvee is not technically considered a high-water vehicle, with a deep water-fording kit it can maneuver through five feet of water. Called an HMMWV in military-speak -- for High Mobility Multipurpose Wheeled Vehicle – the unit is produced by AM General. It rode on Goodyear tires until 2007; now it ventures forth on BF Goodrich 37X12.5 R16.5 LT/MT Radials with a low profile runflat device.

And just how vital are these big trucks to the Guard’s domestic response missions? Their service goes above and beyond the headline-grabbing named storms such as Gustav, Fay and Ike.

High-water vehicles were used to rescue hundreds of people during a flood engulfing Vernonia, Ore. in early December 2007.

When flooding hit Pennsylvania and New Jersey in June and July of 2006, more than 1,000 Guard members used high-wheeled vehicles for water rescues, evacuations and other emergency operations along the Delaware River.

In June of this year, Missouri soldiers used high-water vehicles to deliver 11,520 meals to residents of flood-ravaged Iowa.

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