Lowering total cost of ownership is always the goal for fleets, and Continental Tire is helping tire dealers do just that for their fleet customers with its digital solutions platform that promises thousands of dollars in savings for fleets each year. Taking to its Uvalde Proving Grounds in Texas, Continental Tire the Americas’ Truck Tires Division invited dealers, fleets and media guests in mid-June for a hands-on “ContiXperience,” testing out key products and taking a deep dive into the future of the company’s digital tire monitoring platforms.
“We’re creating a data-driven service model,” said Shaun Uys, vice president of sales and marketing for Continental’s US truck tires business. “This new business that we’re moving toward is a 360-degree approach of being a completely integrated service model for fleets around the tire and tire profile.”
During the event, attendees took a tour of the Proving Grounds’ more than 30 test tracks and specialty areas; tested Conti’s retread performance on a wet track; learned about the company’s newest 19.5-in. tires and experienced an off-road course riding on Conti’s Terra Trac HD3 tires. For some high-speed excitement, participants dipped their toe into the PLT tire world, driving high-performance vehicles on Conti’s ExtremeContact Sport 02 and General G-Max Plus.
Uys emphasized that the event was meant to showcase Continental’s breadth of offerings.
“There are four pillars that sit behind our [truck tire] strategy,” he said. “You have tires, you have the services that go around it, retreads and our newest development is this digital solution approach. This is a very futuristic approach that allows fleets to get their total cost of ownership as low as possible and assists in lowering other costs.”
Live Tire Monitoring
Imagine a world with close to zero downtime because tire problems that your fleet customers encountered were detected before they happened. Well, that’s the vision Continental is bringing to the marketplace with its live tire monitoring solution, called ContiConnect Live, which was launched at TMC this past March year. At the event, Conti demonstrated how it works in real-time.
First, Conti’s second-generation tire sensors, mounted to the inner liner of any commercial tire, collect data on the tire’s true casing temperature, tire pressure, mileage estimation and sensor battery longevity. That data is then sent to the ContiConnect cloud and displayed in a user-friendly web portal on a desktop or mobile app. On the portal’s dashboard, fleet managers can see each wheel position and the status of the tire. A red-highlighted wheel position means the tire needs immediate maintenance; yellow means that the tire should be attended to soon.
In the ContiConnect Live truck and trailer solution, which became available March 2023 for long haul and regional applications and fleets, the sensors transmit every five minutes and give the truck’s GPS location. Fleet managers can also receive customized alerts from the system when a tire needs attention and act on them quickly.
“The goal of digital tire monitoring is to identify issues with tires before they become a major problem,” said Trey Thompson, field engineering manager. “If the proper action is taken by the fleet manager or dealer, then the outcome is that you’re going to have optimal tire management, longer tire life, lower overall cost, the fleet’s going to be more efficient.”
As the sensors collect data over time, the system will also automatically calculate the proper cold inflation pressure for each tire, which fleets can see in the dashboard. Fleet managers can also create a login for their servicing dealer to make maintenance easier and quicker. In addition, the fleet manager and servicing dealer can access historical data through the ContiConnect interface and see how a certain vehicle’s tires are performing over time.
“With the historical data, they can go back and do a deep dive and analyze what’s going on,” said Thompson, adding that looking at this data can provide additional savings for fleets. “So now, fleets aren’t just fighting fires. They’re able to utilize the data and act on what the system is offering them.”
Another part of Conti’s digital solutions is its Yard Reader, which is tailored to domicile fleets. The Yard Reader is a yellow box that collects tire data through the Gen-2 sensors with trucks that return to a central location daily or frequently. Vehicles need to be in the proximity of the Yard Reader for approximately two minutes for it to collect data and transmit it to the ContiConnect cloud.
Thompson said this solution can help save time on tire inspections since they can be performed without a person touching the tire.
“Some of our top segments for the Yard Reader are cement trucks, construction, waste haul, food distribution and city bus fleets,” he said. “If you have a Yard Reader where these vehicles part every night, you can get a reading per day and keep up on your tire maintenance.”
With new technology, there’s always a cost, and Continental knows that commercial tire dealers have to show ROI to their fleets. Carolina Wagner, marketing director for commercial vehicle tires, said fleets can customize the digital solutions to meet their unique needs, and most fleets see their costs go down with an investment in Conti’s digital solutions almost immediately.
“It depends on the application and the location of the fleet and if they’re going with the ContiConnect Live, Yard Reader or both,” she said. “But at the end of the day, their investment in the technology is paid off, I would say, in the first month of utilization. If they save themselves from having one roadside call, the system is basically paid.”
Thompson explained that a fleet’s potential savings goes beyond their investment in the technology. According to data from the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (FMCSA), 85 percent of truck tire failures start as slow leak, which gets worse over time. Underinflated tires can also lead to CSA (The FMCSA’s Compliance, Safety, Accountability program) violations, which carry fines.
“If you monitor tires and react when you have low tire, you could cut your road calls by 85 percent,” Thompson explained.
He also cited a Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) study that found that properly inflated tires benefit from a 15% longer tread life, 20% longer casing life and 1% increase in fuel efficiency. According to the study, properly inflated tires can also reduce tire-related costs by $600-800 annually per vehicle and that doesn’t include the cost of downtime.
“For fleets, two of the top three monthly expenses are fuel and tires. Inflation affects fuel and tires. Knowing that, wouldn’t it be really important to try to maintain the right air pressure?” Thompson said.
Wagner said for dealers, this technology allows them to shift their revenue stream to offer proactive maintenance services, instead of reactive and responding to road calls, which can cost upwards of $1,000 for fleets.
In its ContiConnect system, Continental made sure it’s using technology that can be updated over time as more features are added. For example, Conti’s Gen-II sensors have Bluetooth technology, which allows the company to add functionality to the sensor through a software update. The sensors can come factory-equipped in new Conti commercial tires, and the battery is expected to last approximately four years to minimize service disruptions.
Coming in the fall this year is the ContiConnect Live stand-alone trailer solution. Because not all trailers stay with the cab in regional and long-haul applications, this battery-powered device allows unhooked trailers to be monitored 24/7 in real-time for up to a month. The device tracks the trailer’s GPS location, mileage estimation, tire pressure and temperature data so that tire issues can be addressed right and stolen or missing tires can be detected and found.
Yet even more features are under development. Thompson said Continental is testing a mobile app that reads the tire’s tread depth, which would then send the data to the ContiConnect portal.
“You could use the camera that’s on your phone to take a 3D picture of the tread. It’s the same technology that’s used for facial recognition, and it will send tread depth readings to the cloud,” he said.
Taking it a step further, the sensor, which is associated with a fleet, vehicle and wheel position, would connect to the phone’s Bluetooth technology to identify which tread depth readings are for which wheel position, without human programming the technology to make it happen.
“I wouldn’t have to enter a vehicle number or a wheel position. All I do is walk up, take a picture, it’s going to connect with the sensor, and then it’s going to send that data into ContiConnect platform to the right vehicle, the right wheel position automatically,” Thompson explained.
In the near future, Wagner said Continental is looking into adding RFID (radio frequency identification) into the shoulder area or sidewall of its tires. The RFID strip, which is slated to come in Continental’s Gen-5 commercial tires in 2025, would act as a unique identifier that would track a tire or casing through its entire life. Uys said the implications of all of these technologies combined will help fleets make smarter decisions that could lead to cost savings.
“It’s all part of our 360 solutions,” he said. “Now, you can have a tire, it gets retreaded, and you can go the portal and look at the temperature charts to get a much better indication about the durability of your casing… It does save money for the fleet and dealers are involved with preventative maintenance and service and making money along the way.”