Tangled Program Web - Tire Review Magazine

Tangled Program Web

The question of whom is responsible – and ultimately accountable ®“ for tires and

wheels in any given trucking organization is one that has been considered by the industry for decades.

Answers have been varied, sometimes innovative, and often overly complex. Occasionally, the responsibility has been fragmented, resulting in conflicting rather than complementing interests.

Major decisions such as hiring new employees, acquiring new trucks, and purchasing fuel are typically highly centralized, high profile considerations. And, generally speaking, these considerations are the only things that rank higher as operating costs than tire program expenses.

For that reason, it makes good business sense to choose tires and suppliers only after studied consideration. However, this has proven difficult for many fleet operators to accomplish.

Time was that tire purchasing was a pretty straight forward endeavor. The purchasing decision was pretty much in the hands of the maintenance manager, and no real input from other departments or individuals was necessary. The job was simply to move freight. Trucks needed to roll, and tires were merely a means to and end.

By contrast, today’s fleets are required to do more than just move freight. Trucks are now the means to an end, but tires have become integral to both fleet performance and profitability.

A comprehensive tire program today involves a number of different departments and has the potential to impact many areas of the fleet. At the very basic level, both purchasing and maintenance interests should be weighed. This presumably addresses the traditional price vs. performance/quality issue.

There are, however, other more subtle interests that, if considered with the right vision, can have a positive impact on cost control and enhance smooth operation of the entire fleet operation.

Executive management, drivers, salesmen, marketing/advertising, operations, maintenance technicians, and those charged with retiring used equipment may all have valuable information to contribute. The challenge is to obtain and manage information from these sources in a productive manner. Let’s consider some examples.

OE and Replacement

Tires and wheels specified and purchased as components on new equipment need to be coordinated with any replacement purchasing programs. This is especially important in any transition period to new standards or the phasing out of older component designs.

Coordination of replacement tire purchases with truck/trailer trade cycle planning – including trade vehicle tread depth requirements and retread limitations ®“ is also important and can often be used to enhance used vehicle sale or trade prices.

The selection of replacement tires should consider practical issues and include driver input to maximize dollars and performance. We all know, for instance, that vehicle traction, handling, noise, and ride can all be influenced by tire size and tread type selection.

Driver complaints of hard steering and slow speed handling problems are easily eliminated with the substitution of open-shoulder lug tread drive tires instead of closed shoulder rib designs on drive axles – especially if the truck is used in delivery service that has a high frequency and severity of wheel cut.

Local delivery trucks could be fitted with retreaded open-shoulder lug tread drive tires having these qualities, while the quieter and more fuel efficient closed shoulder original tread drives could still be run on over-the-road units.

The result is happy drivers of both trucks, with no added tire expense or time lost chasing an elusive chassis or steering problem. But this can all be pre-planned.

Improved fuel efficiency has long been linked to tire selection by some operators, but the choice of one tire brand or type over another is usually only one component of a much bigger story. Tread pattern, tire size, retread pull point, retread process, supplier selection, and, of course, inflation maintenance can have fuel economy benefits that well exceed any fuel cost benefits derived by new tire brand selection.

Additionally, some of these tire decisions can also affect downtime and maintenance requirements – situations that should invite operations managers to participate in future tire program choices.

Multiple types of wheels, like axle-specific tread patterns, may optimize driver satisfaction and/or cost-per-mile performance. At the same time, this may restrict interchange flexibility and increase inventory requirements, with accompanying cost penalties. In some operations, however, intentional use of non-standard wheel size, type or appearance may enhance safety or maintenance by forcing axle-specific applications.

A good example would be some heavy haulers that require extra-load rated tires on certain axle positions.

Outside Influences

The selection of emergency road service providers should balance the interests of cost control and minimized downtime, and include availability of preferred tire and wheel sizes/types in sufficient quantities based on anticipated fleet routes and traffic densities.

A fleet with a high concentration of just-in-time manufacturing plant deliveries, for example, may choose different levels of spare tire inventory, or even different service providers, than another fleet that faces no penalties for late deliveries.

One common thread that runs through the pursuit of an optimal tire and wheel program in all fleets is the need for open, free-flowing communication that can cross departmental lines when necessary. Input should be fact-based to the highest degree possible.

But there is always room for some opinion in areas that are often difficult to quantify. For example, fleet appearance, customer satisfaction from on-time delivery and lower downtime, and driver preferences are all rather subjective measures. They should all be considered, but require some kind of grade level in order to fairly considered with quantifiable measures like take-off mileage, total casing life or retread cost.

One good grading exercise is to list each of the functional areas in your company that could be affected by the selection of tire/wheel types and service providers. This should include the potential problems or inconveniences caused by minor ripples, as well as the traditionally recognized problems.

The real challenge is to utilize this information productively, without creating any internal company dissatisfaction or making decisions that result from minor considerations overriding more basic major ones.

That requires being "people smart" as well as "product and process smart." That may be a pretty good definition of a modern maintenance manager.

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