Growth Opportunities Still Require Vigilance - Tire Review Magazine

Growth Opportunities Still Require Vigilance

Lately, there has been a lot of information about the influx of new equipment to the trucking industry.

The combination of more stringent 2007 federal emissions requirements and a generally healthy freight volume have produced robust new vehicle orders for both power units and trailers.

Certainly, some of these truck orders reflect a pre-buy to avoid the expected additional expense and new maintenance requirements of the next-generation low-sulfur-fuel engines. The net result of this activity will be a lowered age (and accumulated mileage) of rolling stock for most fleets. This, of course, includes the tires.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) reports that domestic new tire shipments to OEMs currently comprise a higher percentage of total tire shipments than in more “normal” business cycle times. This holds true in spite of the very strong replacement new and retread tire shipments that reflect the strong ton-mile freight markets our industry has been experiencing.

Once the heavy deliveries of new trucks slow, fleets will be running tires with higher accumulated miles through the new-truck buying cycle, beginning in early 2007.

Several tire-related consequences can be expected. Tire brand choices should become more available to fleet purchasers. Since OE accounts are supplied primarily by several leading Tier 1 tire brands, more of these tires will become available to the replacement markets. Now is an excellent time to review replacement tire sourcing, supply contracts for both products and service, with the possibility of renewing (or establishing) business relationships that may have been strained in the recent times of short supply.

More of the tires delivered on equipment in 2004-06 will be entering their retread cycles. Casing compatibility – especially diameter sizing, tread width and tread design choices – should be managed to minimize complexity in both retread processing and in the logistics of replacement tire applications.

Standardization of these variables among both retreads and new tires helps to control fleet costs and reduce improper tire matching. Field engineers for tire manufacturers are the best sources for this information.

Keep in mind that much modern diesel equipment operates at high torque output levels, and torque transfer is one of several important tire-casing aging mechanisms. Therefore, it is often possible to extend long-term casing life by retreading drive-tire casings with shallow treads for second-life free rolling service and using high-quality trail and steer casings for drive axle service in the first retread stage.

Another area to review is emergency over-the-road tire purchases. Tires become more susceptible to punctures and other damage as tread depths decrease through normal wear. Add the fact that some of the distribution channels servicing the emergency tire service market have had organizational and/or ownership changes recently, and a review of on-road replacement options may be in order.

Generally, the goal is to help fleets remove as much of the “emergency” nature from these transactions as possible. Replace with pre-arranged availability of the fleet’s preferred tire brand and type whenever possible. Note that compatible, not necessarily identical, brands may be good choices.

Keep in mind that consolidating business with the fewest on-road providers possible is in a fleet’s best interest. If there is reasonable mileage intervals between service points along high-density routes, it may even be possible for your fleet customer to negotiate guaranteed availability of specific brand and tread types – new and retreads.

One final note relates to the increasingly popular on-board tire inflation systems that many fleets have specified on new trailers recently. The use of on-board air to keep tires properly inflated while on the road is a major step toward reducing unscheduled downtime.

These units are not, however, a substitute for scheduled tire inspections. Only hands-on inspections can detect punctures and other damage that can ultimately ruin valuable casings. Inflation maintenance and routine tire inspections remain the primary hallmarks of a well-managed tire program.

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