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Commercial Tires

Squeezing Out Every Dime of Fuel Efficiency

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As fuel prices reach record high levels, and there is little or no sign of relief on the horizon, fleet managers and tire dealers continue to utilize all the tools at their disposal to manage and lower truck fleet fuel consumption.

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One area of keen focus is on tires – specifically the latest fuel-saving technologies that manufacturers are offering.

How do the newest tire and retread designs enhance fuel efficiency in on-highway vehicles? What areas of tire development are being aimed at improving fuel economy? These are among the questions that several leading tire suppliers have answered.

“Bridgestone produces a fuel-efficient lineup for low rolling resistance for each position – steer, drive and trailer,” said Guy Walenga of Bridgestone Americas. “These tires are designed to reduce rolling resistance without sacrificing either durability or long mileage. We create specialized synthetic rubber with engineered properties, together with cap-and-base tread design, which combines the best characteristics of long-wearing rubber compounds with heat-reducing, fuel-saving compounds to provide both exceptional wear and fuel efficiency.”

For steer and trailer positions, according to Walenga, Bridgestone has several fuel-efficient tire choices for on-highway, long-distance applications. For steer positions, fleets can choose between the Bridgestone R287 and Bridgestone R280, and for trailers there’s the Bridgestone R195F with sidewall protection. For drive tires, the company offers the fuel-efficient M720. In addition, if weight savings are also a priority, Bridgestone offers its super wide Greatec drive and trailer radials.

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“Wide single tires like the Michelin X One maximize fuel economy by reducing rolling resistance and mass,” said Don Baldwin of Michelin Americas Truck Tires. “They accomplish this through the use of low rolling resistance tread compounds and tread designs, and by the elimination of two sidewalls by going from four with dual tires to two with X One tires.”

The X One, according to Baldwin, is able to eliminate two sidewalls because of the advantages of its technologies. The Infini-Coil Technology used in the X One, for example, wraps a quarter-of-a-mile of steel cord around the tire, allowing it to maintain a constant footprint, deliver the necessary traction and control, and meet the weight carrying capacity and curability needed to eliminate two sidewalls. For tire applications, he added, the Michelin XDA Energy tire uses a low rolling resistance tread compound and tread design, as well as a lower tread depth, to provide fuel efficiency.”

Curtis Decker of Continental Tire North America said that the combination of Continental HSL steer, HDL Eco Plus drive and HTL trailer tires provide an effective fuel efficient solution for on-highway combination vehicles. In addition, the HDL Eco Plus at 28/32nds inch of tread depth offers an additional 2/32nds inch of tread depth compared to other fuel-efficient drive tires. “Continental has been a long-time proponent of fuel efficient, low rolling resistance tires, so our main offerings represent our most fuel efficient products,” he adds.

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Additionally, Decker related that Continental will release the HDL2 drive tire and the Continental HTL2 trailer tire in a wide base 445/50R22.5 size in 2009. “These tires are by their nature more fuel efficient than most conventional twin drive and trailer tires,” he states. “With the release of the 445/50R22.5 tires, fleets will have a choice of using highly fuel efficient dual tires or super wide technology to achieve fuel savings.”

The Goodyear FuelMax line of fuel-efficient tires for long haul fleets was introduced in late 2006, reported the company’s Tim Miller. “These include the G395 LHS steer, G305 LHD drive and the G16 LHT trailer tires, all with FuelMax Technology and all also available as a retread,” he said. “Each tire was designed to provide low rolling resistance and long wear. For example, the drive tire has a simple tread design, more shallow initial tread depth and a tread compounded to deliver lower rolling resistance.”

With proven fuel efficiency characteristics, retreads can also help maintain the low fuel consumption characteristics associated with new tire designs. “Bandag offers fleets tires specifically designed for fuel efficiency,” said Chris Hoffman of Bandag, “including the FuelTech Drive and FuelTech Trailer. FuelTech retreads are manufactured from an advanced tread compound, which lowers rolling resistance. These retread tire have been independently tested and have proven to provide better fuel economy than some new tires.”

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Dave Lippert of Michelin Retread Technologies said MRT also uses advanced rubber compounds to reduce rolling resistance in certain retread products. “MRT is currently upgrading these advanced compounds,” he added, “which will be in the marketplace in a relatively short period of time. At the same time, our technical development teams are working toward even more significant long-term gains in fuel-efficient retreads.”

Tire manufacturers are looking ahead to being able to provide even greater fuel efficiency from their products. “Although all the components of a tire ultimately contribute to its rolling resistance,” stated Goodyear’s Miller,” about 65% of the total contribution comes from the tread. Making incremental changes in tread design and tread compound materials and processing will be where most future gains will come.”

Michelin will also be launching lower rolling resistance products in the future that incorporate new tread compounds and tread designs, noted Baldwin. “By making the tread wider, we are able to reduce tread depth while still maintaining wear life at lower rolling resistance levels,” he explains further. “By effectively incorporating compounds, tread designs and other technologies, our truck tires will continue to push the envelope of what is truly fuel-efficient.”

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“Bridgestone is always working on casing and tread compound innovations to improve rolling resistance while maintaining durability, traction and long mileage,” stated Walenga. “In addition, casings that are retreadable while promoting fuel economy over their useful life means we never have to sacrifice durability and long wear while striving to improve fuel efficiency.”

Continental worldwide is constantly investigating areas where fuel efficiency can be improved with tires, noted Decker. “Continental has an ongoing investigation where we evaluate tread cap compounds and reinforcements for any improvements that can be made to rolling resistance. We also always consider the overall life of the casing so fuel savings can be spread over every life of the tire, new and retread.”
 
Tire and retread suppliers readily agree that fleets seeking improved fuel economy should look beyond the brand or design of their tires and evaluate ways to improve their overall tire programs. “For example,” said Bandag’s Hoffman, “fleets should work with tire dealers and suppliers and establish maintenance programs and practices that maintain proper air inflation and wheel alignment in order to maximize fuel efficiency.”

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