People always say that we live in a changing world. It seems, however, that the pace is accelerating, especially technology advances that impacts our industry.
Sometimes the changes are revolutionary. Other times, evolutions of existing products or practices breathe new life into the already familiar.
I thought of this analogy recently while reassembling my old Shelby Mustang following a new paint job that cost nearly five times what I paid for the entire car new in 1966. It’s now in great shape again, fun to drive, but totally impractical with poor fuel economy (premium gas required), points-style ignition, bias ply tires, and few safety features.
Just for kicks, I recently drove a new Mustang GT and was very impressed. Thanks to new technology, it performs better, is relatively practical, affordable and even sounds much like the V-8 of old. If I were 21, I’d probably buy one.
Truck tire recordkeeping may be destined for a similar comeback. Consider that tire parameters most useful for recordkeeping and decision-making are now accessible electronically. Remaining tread depth, unique identification, including brand and type, size, date of manufacture can all be accessed using commercially available ID chips and tools. Many ID chips also can be updated during the tire life to record significant details such as retreadings, repairs, wheel position history, etc. An important benefit to electronic data acquisition is elimination of transcription errors, often at the 7% to 10% range for manually recorded data.
Sophisticated pressure monitoring devices are in final stages of development with many competitive manufacturers involved. Although designed primarily for in-service inflation monitoring, these devices should be accessible for yard checks and maintenance program, as well.
Since inflation pressure is temperature dependent, many pressure monitors are expected to be temperature compensated (corrected to “cold” inflation values). One question being considered is whether or not a temperature history (red-flagging if a maximum casing temperature was exceeded) would be useful and cost effective in determining future casing use.
Reliable, flexible wireless communication options are now available, allowing choices for gathering, selecting, reporting and analyzing data. Bluetooth, WiFi, infrared, cell phone, Internet and satellite options can be combined and tailored to fleet needs. Maintenance and operational differences among small and large fleets can be addressed to maximize efficiency.
Tire records, often independent from other operational functions, may now be combined into programs that include inventory tracking and replenishment, asset security, equipment trade cycle management, truck and trailer maintenance scheduling, over-the-road vendor evaluations and other good management tools.
Many maintenance software programs include provisions for tire modules that have generally not been completed or activated due to the lack of electronically acquired, cost effective data. It appears that modern tire records may be configured as input to an active asset management system, rather than viewing tires merely as expense items. Considering tires are traditionally the second highest non-labor fleet cost, and that prices continue to rise, an asset management approach is well advised.
Significant changes in the truck tire industry, including multi-brand ownership and multi-tiered brand marketing, new manufacturing plant locations, a limited supplier base for certain new tire sizes, and technology agreements involving new players are taking place. These factors can be expected to create change in supplier expectations. Granted, detailed tire records may still be likened to an unassembled puzzle, but many indicators, along with some common sense logic and observation lead me to predict that the pieces are coming together. Tire information once judged to be too expensive may soon become too expensive to ignore.