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Commercial Tires

There’s Never Been a Better Time for Fuel-Efficient TBR Tire Sales

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If you have commercial truck and bus customers, you know they’re struggling with market factors out of their control. They can’t find the parts they need for maintenance and repairs. Their vehicles are getting older and new inventory is few and far between. Diesel prices are through the roof, hovering around $5.50/gallon in some parts of the country. And drivers and service technicians are worth their weight in gold. (Or whatever’s worth more than gold these days. Washing machines? Chicken wings maybe?)

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It’s a frustrating market, so fleet managers are leaning into operational areas they can control – fuel efficiency being chief among them. And, although your commercial customers are likely aware that the rolling resistance of their tires plays a role in fuel efficiency, they may not know just how powerful a tool their tires can be in the quest to control their finances at the fuel pump.

In fact, according to Rob Williams, Hankook Tire America senior vice president of TBR sales, reducing rolling resistance by just 3% can save fuel consumption by 1% to 1.2%.

“Rolling resistance can differ by 9% in a truck tire (drive axle positions), depending on whether it is a low rolling resistance tire or normal tire, and if it has a rib-type tread or block-type tread,” Williams adds. “Equipping a vehicle with a tire optimized for lower rolling resistance can reduce total fuel consumption by 3 to 3.6%.”

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Those single-digit percentages may seem puny, but they add up to much more than chump change for commercial fleets. NHTSA research shows that fuel costs can be as much as 60% of a fleet’s operating budget.

I asked Williams if I could drink from his fountain of knowledge to help tire dealers become their commercial customers’ fuel-saving sidekicks, and he responded with a fire hose-worth of tire wisdom and data. Read on to see how the latest Hankook tire technology is lowing rolling resistance; TBR tire maintenance tips; and Williams’s best advice for getting on a fleet’s No. 1 speed dial position as their tire guru.

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We all know the right tire choice can help improve a vehicle’s fuel efficiency. What tire technology is Hankook working on to improve the rolling resistance of its tires?

Hankook is researching innovative ways to improve TBR products at all levels. Hankook’s SmartWay Approved tire technology helps lower rolling resistance which ultimately lowers Cost per Mile by saving fuel consumption. 

Another major trend that we are observing is the incorporation of big data and artificial intelligence into fleet management, which requires smart tires equipped with sensors. Smart tires collect real-time data while driving that can be processed and turned into insights such as tread life prediction, tire wear level, abnormal tire behavior, optimal tire maintenance intervals and settings, and real-time alerts to a driver.

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Hankook is working on developing a commercial fleet management solution as well. As part of this, Hankook kicked off a pilot project in North America last year in partnership with Revvo Technologies, a Silicon Valley-based smart tire technology start-up, and Junk King, North America’s top-rated eco-friendly junk removal and hauling company. Hankook is also partnering with a fleet management service company to develop a mileage prediction tool.

Our main product lines are fuel efficient due to excellent rolling resistance performance. These products are being supplied to major automakers like DTNA, Ford and Navistar. In addition, Hankook’s major products are SmartWay-verified, which is mandatory in California. As mentioned above, SmartWay-Approved tire technology helps lower rolling resistance and thus saves fuel consumption.

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By lowering rolling resistance, tire manufacturers have been taking aerodynamic drag into consideration when designing a tire tread. Reducing the width of the tire belt and height of the apex can effectively reduce energy loss, and appropriately increasing abrasion height can also reduce the rolling resistance.

Beyond fuel efficiency, why else is rolling resistance important?

Optimizing rolling resistance is not only about fuel economy. It benefits the environment as lower rolling resistance corresponds with lower CO2 emissions. In alignment with enhanced greenhouse gas (GHG) standards, and as part of our mission to contribute to sustainability, we are developing products with lower rolling resistance without compromising mileage, handling, grip and wet performance while expanding our eco-friendly product range.

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Other than helping to guide a fleet manager’s tire choice, what else can tire dealers do for their commercial fleet customers to help them save money on fuel?

Educating fleets on pre-trip inspections or offering fleet inspections and providing services such as alignments and tire rotations to improve tire wear ultimately can improve fuel efficiency. Hankook is working to educate our dealer sales team on the benefits and features of our products and how they can help improve fuel efficiency. We continue to work with our dealer network to mutually target fleet customers to provide superior products and services to keep fleet downtime to a minimum. 

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Have any tips or tricks for tire dealers to use regarding TBR tire sales/installation/maintenance that will give them bonus points with their commercial customers?

Understanding Cost Per Mile for a fleet is critical, as well as tracking tire performance with pre-trip inspections and regular maintenance to help their fleet get more mileage and greater fuel efficiency.

Driving habits also affect fuel efficiency greatly. Hankook Tire conducted a new driving optimization solution test with a Korean transportation company, EHWA Air and Travel Agency, on their buses from July 2020 to September 2021. Key findings suggested that driving habits such as frequent braking and engine idling could shorten the lifespan and mileage of a tire and waste fuel. 

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These findings indicated that routine checks of tire pressure and improving driving habits can reduce fuel consumption and help tires last longer. With the analyzed driving data, Hankook Tire created an accurate vehicle mileage prediction model by referring to each vehicle’s route severity and drivers’ habits such as sudden acceleration, deceleration, and braking.

What is a fuel-saving tire maintenance tip tire dealers can share with fleets that might often be ignored or overlooked? 

Proper selection of product application is key based on the driving conditions, such as putting a regional line-haul tire on a long-haul fleet. The proper application will reduce tire wear and overall fuel efficiency, thus lowering the fleet’s cost per mile. Daily pre-trip inspections and regular vehicle maintenance are all necessary for enhanced fuel efficiency as well.

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