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Pursuit of Performance

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Although they may not be talked about on T.V. shows such as CSI: Crime Scene Investigation or even Brooklyn Nine-Nine, tires are as important to a police officer as is his vehicle, gun, armor or handcuffs. The same way that these other items help law enforcement officers to do their jobs, so too do purpose-built police/pursuit tires.policecar

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Both Goodyear and Bridgestone Americas manufacture pursuit-rated tires to keep up with the demands of local law enforcement agencies.

“Police tires are built with a robust design in order to handle the demands and operating conditions that police vehicles encounter,” says Rick Wendt, manager of government channel sales at Goodyear.

The robust design is evident in the actual construction of the tire – different sorts of plies are necessary to make the tire more durable. The durability of these tires is set by the conditions that police vehicles typically encounter – everything from from neighborhood cruising to high-speed pursuits.

“Paramount to the design of these tires are high speeds, handling and performance,” says Maurice King, product planner for Bridgestone. “They’re designed and engineered to specifically handle the demanding rigor of law enforcement services.”

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The state highway patrols of Michigan and California set the minimum standards for pursuit tires. These two agencies are considered authorities on police/pursuit tires and although they may not mandate that all tires in the U.S. meet their standards, most police agencies adopt these two highway patrols’ findings.

Current, Upcoming Trends

Goodyear and Bridgestone are currently the only two pursuit-rated tire manufacturers. Goodyear supplies OE fitments for all current police/pursuit vehicles while Bridgestone releases pursuit products under its Firestone brand and has an OE-approved fitment for the current police service Dodge Charger. Both offer replacement products that are pursuit-rated.

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As the only participants in the segment, Goodyear and Bridgestone develop close relationships with government agencies to understand the needs of the segment to anticipate what products law enforcement agencies might need. These tiremakers also work in the same way with OEMs that supply police/pursuit vehicles such as Chrysler, Chevrolet and Ford.

Goodyear’s Wendt identifies two trends that are currently taking place in police/pursuit tires: an increased focus on high-speed rated products as well as larger wheel diameters. In particular, W-speed rated tires have become very popular as well as 18-inch wheels.

Firestone GT Pursuit – Bridgestone Americas sells pursuit products under its Firestone brand.

Firestone GT Pursuit – Bridgestone Americas sells pursuit products under its Firestone brand.

Bridgestone has seen a similar trend.

“W speed rating is here to stay,” says Anant Gandhi, product planner at Bridgestone. “In terms of size proliferation, we’ve come to a stable point. I doubt we’re going to see a sedan police cruiser with 20-, 22-, 24-inch or higher wheel diameters.”

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Of course, many law enforcement agencies have moved to or include large SUVs. Tires for those vehicles not only have to handle pursuit situations, they also need off-road capability and the ability to carry greater vehicle weights.

In addition to larger wheel diameter, the police/pursuit segment is also following another passenger market trend: winter tires. Both Goodyear and Bridgestone have begun to offer winter tires as an alternative to using all-seasons in the colder months. Goodyear offers its Eagle Ultra Grip GW-2 and GW-3 products for winter driving conditions. The Firestone brand claims to be the only manufacturer that produces a dedicated pursuit-rated winter tire with the Firehawk PVS.

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“The advantage of using winter tires in a pursuit situation is that they offer superior traction and a high speed rating that handles and performs in winter. That includes traction in snow, ice, slush, wet, cold and rain,” says Bridgestone’s King.

However, as seen in the passenger market, it can be difficult for police fleets to adopt winter tire technologies, admits Gandhi. Police fleets have become used to the convenience of all-season tires.

“With winter tires, the challenge is having to change the tires when they hit the colder months,” says Gandhi. “We [tiremakers, dealers, industry professionals] need to make sure that fleet managers are educated in terms of the shear safety benefits and improvements that winter tires offer to those fleets in winter environments.”

Goodyear RS-A pursuit-rated tire: The tiremaker supplies OE fitments for many current police/pursuit vehicles.

Goodyear RS-A pursuit-rated tire: The tiremaker supplies OE fitments for many current police/pursuit vehicles.

In regions where winter tires are suitable, dealers should communicate to government agencies the benefits of winter tires and consider how they can help fleets with the service aspect of changing out the tires for the season.

Over the past decade, fuel efficiency has become a larger concern for police fleets. For some law enforcement agencies, the need to cut fuel costs has led agencies to consider alternative fuels while others look to cut costs by purchasing newer, application-specific vehicles that are spec’d to perform best for that particular application.

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For example, police fleets are now experimenting with liquid propane. Other fleets may choose to purchase new Ford Police Interceptor Sedans spec’d with a 2.0 liter EcoBoost inline four-cylinder instead of V6 engines because they know that the majority of their driving is city/campus.

Fuel-efficient tires have not yet been a major concern for police fleet managers, but understanding how fuel costs affect fleet manager’s business practices is important to tiremakers.

“When Bridgestone looks at the market as a whole, we prioritize what’s needed and what needs improvement. In past generation products, fuel efficiency has been lower on that list. Bridgestone is simply not willing to compromise that pursuit performance for fuel efficiency,” says Ghandi. “However, when we look to the future, fuel efficiency is something that will help separate Bridgestone in all our products and is something that we look at in every product that we engineer.”

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Building Relationships

Both Goodyear and Bridgestone have dedicated government business groups that handle communications and even contracts with various government agencies. These business groups also help tire dealers to understand and address the unique needs of police fleets.

In order to serve these fleets, it’s important to be a resource, not a salesperson, Goodyear and Bridgestone agree.

“Offer your services as a tire expert to service their fleet’s needs for tires and service,” says Goodyear’s Wendt.

Being a tire expert requires that dealers first understand the fleet’s business model, how a police fleet does its business. The tiremakers agree that educating and communicating with government agencies about tire service is key to establishing a business partnership.

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“The goal should be for dealers to ensure that the police fleets and the fleet managers understand how to best maintain and extend the life of their vehicles and tires,” says Bridgestone’s King. “Focus on education, awareness, answering questions and communication.”

In terms of education, some police agencies may need to understand the differences between using conventional tires versus pursuit-rated tires. There are still plenty of police agencies that use regular tires, assuming that they cost less than pursuit-rated tires.

In these cases, work with the tiremakers to uncover real costs savings available to the fleet. If a law enforcement group is going through a large number of tires annually, savings may be found even with dedicated police/pursuit options.

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Bridgestone’s Gandhi notes that the company’s pursuit tire products are priced in a cost-competitive way as to be a “good corporate citizen.” For that reason, tiremakers also work with collective buying groups and honor special group pricing or statewide pricing for pursuit products.

“At the end of the day, police fleets are trying to run a small business with a budget and the goal is to extend the life of their assets as much as possible and to make sure that costs are kept at a minimum,” says Gandhi.

By understanding a fleet’s business and becoming a solution for them, dealers can be seen as a tire expert and, more importantly, a business partner that will benefit financially from the success of the fleet. The rest comes down to navigating the processes involved in working with local governments and fulfilling the needs of law enforcement agencies that now rely on you for the success of their fleet.

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