Futuristic Fleets - Tire Review Magazine

Futuristic Fleets

Radial truck tires have come a long way in the last several decades. Initial tread

mileage, resistance to irregular wear, fuel efficiency and casing durability/retreadability are some of the major areas of advancement.

Over the long haul, gains in tire technology are impressive, but progress is historically slow and methodical, evolutionary in nature and not especially exciting in the short term. This same analysis applies to many other commercial vehicle components, including major sub-assemblies. There is little change until the cost/benefit is fully understood and accepted.

Compare the dollar-driven snail’s pace of truck technology to the recent explosion of new vehicles, packaging configurations and powertrain variations in the automotive and light truck fields. New technology is rampant and on high-profile display, and the competition is intense.

The hardware on display at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit earlier this year was enough to impress even the most laid-back industry watcher. It wasn’t all about style and sheet metal, either. New engines, drive line and suspension components, efficiency enhancing electronics, and alternative powertrains were all on display.

Particularly interesting were the alternative fuel engines and hybrid vehicles. These hybrids are no longer flash-in-the-pan eccentric technologies meant to impress life-long Sierra Club member. Rather, they are well-evolved usable vehicles. In fact, one production hybrid, which combines a traditional gasoline engine with a regenerative electric propulsion system, was chosen as the North American Car of the Year.

It is reasonable to think that the amount of investment in these programs, by companies notorious for their concerns about marketshare and cash flow, reflect some clearly defined goals and are driven by consumer desire.


Energy-Saving Rigs?

A quick look around parking lots of most suburban shopping centers reveals a dazzling array of new vehicle configurations ®“ many of these designs are new ®“ debuting within the last two years. The sheer number and extent of the changes in auto and light truck offerings is almost bewildering.

At the same time, commercial trucks continue to evolve at a much slower and methodical pace.

The reasoned explanation for this has traditionally been that function, life-cycle costs and operating efficiency are the primary factors driving (no puns here!) buyers of these vehicles. On the consumer side, non-economic factors like style, perception and emotion rank high in the purchase decision process.

I wonder, though, if some of these newly emerging technologies (beyond styling and superficial repackaging) will find its way to the commercial market to deliver tangible operating benefits.

Consider the energy efficiency possibilities, for example. For years, a rule of thumb for internal combustion engines has been that for the latent heat content of fuel fed to the engine, approximately one-third resulted in usable power to the drive train, one-third left through the exhaust as heat and one-third was lost as heat through the cooling system.

Turbocharging, inter-cooling, electronic fuel delivery controls and higher operating temperatures have helped to skew this mix in favor of more usable power. But this “system” is still open to lots of efficiency improvement. Energy is also lost in the form of heat whenever brakes are used. Capturing and harnessing this ®lost® energy is the basic concept of current generation hybrid autos. Batteries and auxiliary electric motors are used to accomplish this.

With the exception of some specialized European coach designs, such systems are rarely seen on truck or bus chassis. Added weight and mechanical complexity limit their use on commercial vehicles versus autos. But efficiency improvements have now become a high priority among commercial truck users, so technology advances will soon wipe away those weight and complexity issues.


Practical Applications

If and when truck manufacturers consider hybrid powertrain designs, several North American configurations would seem to be good candidates.

First, the basic 18-wheeler could become a cargo container chassis, with all axle ends driven by auxiliary electric motors to the extent that stored power is available. Secondly, delivery and pick-up vehicles (e.g. waste haulers) especially could benefit, due to the high frequency and severity of braking and resulting energy available for regeneration.

Other applications, such as short wheelbase doubles/triples and tractors could become all-wheel drive, resulting in improved traction, handling and efficiency. The electric drive components could be used to supplement traditional power transfer systems or as primary drive components placed on each driven axle, with energy supplied by a combination of engine- and brake-generated power.

Basic changes of this magnitude would, of course, require major rework of current designs. Trailer manufacturers would have to integrate their designs with truck/tractor manufacturers. Other components, including tires, brakes and electrical systems, would likely change considerably from the current axle-specific designs as driving, braking and cornering forces would tend to converge.

It sounds complex, challenging and possible. Given the talent available in our industry, it just might happen ®“ if the rewards are there in the form of efficiency and operating costs.

We’re a long way from hybrid Peterbilts or Freightliners. Even without wholesale changes, though, we will continue to see further efforts to improve vehicle ®“ especially tire ®“ fuel efficiency at all wheel positions.

With tire raw material costs escalating higher and faster, casing durability and removal mileage will become more and more important to cost-conscious fleets. Engine performance ®“ fuel economy ®“ will also take center stage as fleets and owner-operators face ever higher diesel prices.

So, even though we won’t likely see alternate energy 18-wheelers anytime soon, growing cost and competitive pressures will press faster integration of new technology in the commercial sector. It may not be as dazzling as the technology on display at the auto show, but it will be considerably more effective.

You May Also Like

Training and Technology Will Lead the Way in OTR Tires

When we look at how OTR tires keep up with innovations in equipment, it’s all about maximizing productivity.


After two years of probably the strangest logistics we've lived through—and a roller coaster ride of an economy—the OTR tire market is surprisingly robust. The construction industry has slowed down slightly, and there's a lot of talk about a recession, but so far, we haven't seen a lot of publicly or privately funded projects pull back, and quarries and mines are running hard. All that activity is good for the tire industry.

Last-Mile Delivery Tires Set to Outpace Long-Haul Tire Volumes

Prior to the pandemic, the last-mile delivery (LMD) market was booming. So, when COVID-19 hit, and newly-homebound consumers placed even more online orders — retailers like Amazon shortened delivery times to two days, one day, or even same-day services — and the segment exploded. Related Articles – Maxam Tire Completes Core Size Range for Agrixtra

Global Tire Manufacturer Ralson Enters US TBR Market

Global tire manufacturer Ralson is entering the U.S. commercial tire market with a new medium/heavy truck tire manufacturing facility and a team of veteran American sales and marketing tire professionals. Ralson debuted its products for the US with its American team at the 2022 SEMA Show in Las Vegas. Related Articles – Hankook Tire Launches

Michelin Releases Agilis HD Z as New Urban and Regional Tire

Michelin North America has released the Michelin Agilis HD Z 19.5 in two sizes to offer fleets with light and medium-duty vehicles durable, long-lasting tires optimized for the stresses of urban and regional environments. The Agilis HD Z 19.5-in. tires will replace the Michelin XZE in two current sizes (225/70R19.5 LRG and 245/70R19.5 LRH) in

Yokohama Tire Launches the 716U UWB Regional Drive Tire

Yokohama Tire’s newest commercial tire – the 716U ultra wide-base – is a weight-savings drive tire that carries more profitability for fleets, the company says. It is available now in the US in size 455/55R225. Related Articles – Vredestein Launches New Pinza H/T in US – Goodyear Adds Wrangler HT Tire to Light Truck Lineup


Other Posts

Continental Debuts Enthusiast-Driven ExtremeContact Sport 02

From timed autocross laps to drifting on a skid pad and mastering knee-jerk braking and turns on a raceway, dealers, influencers and members of the media were treated to a crash course in performance racing while testing out Continental’s newest UHP summer tire, the ExtremeContact Sport 02. Related Articles – BKT Tires Launches Agrimaxfactor Tire

BKT Tires Launches Agrimaxfactor Tire For Tractors

BKT has launched the Agrimaxfactor, a new tire series for tractors for transport and soil tillage operations. Related Articles – Continental Tire Launches ExtremeContact Sport02 – BKT Launches EM 933 Super Excavating Tire – Kenda Unveils Vezda Touring 4S, its First ‘Four-Season’ Offering The company says it developed the series in response to the request

Michelin’s Enviro System Unveils Tire with 58% Sustainable Materials

Michelin says its subsidiary Scandinavian Enviro Systems is the first tire manufacturer in the world to unveil tires with a high proportion of environmentally sustainable materials that have been approved for use on ordinary road vehicles. These include tires for buses and cars containing recovered carbon black from Enviro, among other materials. Related Articles –

Cooper Unveils Largest Tire in its Discoverer Rugged Trek Line

At the annual SEMA Show in Las Vegas, The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company unveiled the biggest tires yet in its Cooper Discoverer Rugged Trek tire line. Designed for lifted pickup trucks, these all-new, large-sized tires feature signature Cooper Knife-Edge and Mountain Pass customizable sidewall designs and will be available to consumers in early 2023.