New Year Fleet Resolutions - Tire Review Magazine

New Year Fleet Resolutions

Tires continue to be a large cost and concern for commercial trucking fleets in 2014.

So what are commercial trucking fleets expecting from their tire suppliers in 2014?

Next to fuel, tires continue to be the top maintenance cost for fleets. A typical line haul tractor-trailer equipped with 18 new over the road tires will cost a fleet in the $7,000 range, depending on the specific make/model and tread depth.

If the fleet is running retreads on both the drive and trailer positions, the cost will drop to the $4,000-$5,000 range. Either way, this is a serious expense for every vehicle. Take that $7,000 and multiply it across 100 tractor-trailers and you have an investment of $700,000 – all for one set of new tires across an entire fleet. That’s just Day One.

Every fleet considers tires and their tire program a number one priority, and it’s little wonder. A poorly managed tire program can lead to dire consequences, not just in terms of the rubber, but in all of the associated issues.

Fleets expect their vendors to keep the vehicle maintenance department current on any specific tire model that can improve fuel economy, increase removal tire mileage, improve vehicle traction and increase tire retreadability. In addition to those basic tire performance attributes, fleets always need help in optimizing their tire program. This involves many factors including target tread depth pull points, possible tire rotation recommendations, running steer tires back on the drive or trailer positions, casing management, and of course their retread program.

Performance surveys of tires currently running on existing equipment – plus a scrap tire analysis – is expected by fleets. A tire dealer will be working on a daily basis with its fleet customers to make all of this come together. The bottom line is to help keep the fleet’s tire budget in check.

Manage Expectations

Let’s take a closer look at some of these fleet expectations. Fuel economy is still the hot button for fleets running vehicles in line haul and regional line haul service vocations. Improving fuel economy has more impact on the bottom line than increasing tire removal mileage and casing retreadability. Even a 2% or 3% improvement in vehicle fuel economy will save a fleet thousands of dollars in fuel.

Tires play a major role in helping achieve this result. Tire companies all market a plethora of fuel-efficient tires. Sure, these fuel-efficient tires have a cost premium attached; even a small tire cost increase is an easy sell to fleets if vehicle fuel economy is increased.

In some cases, especially on fuel-efficient drive tires, the initial tread depth may be lower than with a standard non-fuel efficient tire. This will result in reduced removal mileage, but again, when you do the math, the increase in fuel economy may well outweigh any loss in tire removal miles. For some of the mega fleets, even 1/10th of a mile per gallon increase in fuel economy equates to millions of dollars in fuel savings per year.

Tire Evaluations

Fleets are always interested in new product offerings, but these should be evaluated prior to spec’ing any new tire or retread in their fleet. Just because new Tire A is working fine at the fleet down the street does not mean the same tire make/model will be a success on different tractors and trailers running under a separate set of parameters. No two fleets are the same.

Commercial tire dealers need to become experts in working with their fleets in running a tire evaluation that is statistically valid after the evaluation is complete. There is nothing more disappointing than to discover that after a two-year trial more than half of the tires are out-of-service because of damage or punctures, and therefore no final inspection of tread depths and wear conditions could be conducted. No conclusions can be made without a proper sample size.

A serious evaluation of new tire products takes time to think through. The Technology Maintenance Council of the American Trucking Associations recommends a minimum sample size of 30 in order to make any evaluation statistically valid.

Vehicle, driver and service vocation play a major role in how a tire performs. The idea behind any good tire evaluation is to minimize those variables. Before considering a change, a fleet wants to determine if Tire A is better than Tire B in terms of tire performance, mileage, retreadability and fuel efficiency.

Since tires tend to disappear throughout the course of any evaluation, it is critical that tires are inspected on an interim basis. It may be every two or three months, but by inspecting them on a regular basis you will always have the most recent and complete inspection data to use in your final analysis.

Fleets expect their tire suppliers – dealers and manufacturers – to assist in scrap tire analysis. So much can be learned from analyzing a scrap tire pile. If all the tires in the scrap tire pile are worn evenly, that’s a very good sign of a successful complete tire program. If the fleet is running retreads and its goal is two retreads per casing, then you should not find many virgin and one-retread casings. It should be predominantly casings that have been worn out and have been retreaded at least twice.

If you did analyze the scrap tire pile and found a high percentage of tires with 9/32nds or 10/32nds of tread remaining on tires retreaded a second time, that should tell the fleet that its should only retread their casings once. That fleet is obviously not getting much bang for their retreading buck.

Other Issues

Tire dealers need to be working closely with their fleets when it comes to the Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA) government program run by the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration. CSA has a large impact on fleets when it comes to tires.

Tires that are found to be flat, underinflated, have audible air leaks, tread depths below the minimum standards, and/or showing exposed belts, cords or fabric are assigned points during roadside inspections. An underinflated tire gets three points while a flat tire (less than 50% of the maximum pressure which is molded onto the tire sidewall) receives eight points. Importantly, the negative points stay with both the driver and fleet. Shippers can find this data about their trucking companies to determine which has better fleet performance.

Drivers do not want to drive a vehicle that has tire issues. If they get pulled over and there are tire problems, the driver gets negative points on his record for three years. As a result, drivers only want to work for trucking companies with good equipment and good tires.

This is a great time for tire dealers to come up with a plan to optimize a fleet’s tire program so they have minimal issues during these CSA vehicle inspections.

It is a win-win for both the fleet and the tire dealer to make that fleet’s tire program a success.

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