Effective management of tire costs is more important now than ever and will continue to grow in importance, but if you are not able to accurately measure what your fleet spends on tires, there is no way you will be able to manage those expenses. Unfortunately, many fleets have not initiated a comprehensive tire management program, nor do they accurately know the expense they incur for tires.
“At the end of the day, it is cost per 1/32nd of tread wear per mile, but most people do not have that information,” said Darry Stuart, president and CEO of DWS Fleet Management Services (www.darrystuart.com). “The best way to accurately account for tires is to use a good computerized system and charge tires by 32nds as they go on and credit tires the 32nds when they come off. Also, most fleets include the cost of tires in the cost of a new truck, therefore failing to include those tires when they are calculating their tire cost per mile.”
Programs that do this kind of accounting are available and have been designed to interact seamlessly with most computerized maintenance management systems. Services are also available through tire vendors who will input fleet tire data, then store and analyze it. Goodyear (www.goodyear.com), for example, recently launched a next-generation version of its TVTrack program that is designed to do exactly what needs to be done if fleet tire costs are to be managed. It is available through the company’s dealer network and will accept and analyze cradle-to-grave financial information about any brand of tire.
Retread tires deserve to be included in all commercial fleet tire programs. Many fleets operating Class 3 through 6 vehicles already use retreads, and due to economic pressures over the last few years, there has been a growing interest in the use of these products among fleets not using them. “There has definitely been an increased interest in using retreads,” said Guy Walenga, director of engineering for commercial products at Bridgestone Firestone (www.bridgestone-firestone.com). “You could say people have found religion. They have been looking for any place where they can save some money. Many fleets that never considered retreading before have taken another look at the use of retreads because it is such a good way to influence the overall cost per mile.”
Fleet managers need to realize there is no definite age limit on the life of a tire carcass. Steel body plies and steel-belted commercial tires are designed to be retreaded. Every casing that goes into a reputable retread shop will be inspected visually and with a nondestructive testing system that will find any nail holes invisible to the naked eye. They are also put through X-ray tests to find ply separations.
“Because each tire casing goes through this extended inspection process, there is no time frame that would limit the casing for retreading,” Walenga said. “A retreader is liable for the quality and performance of his product. As a result, he’s not going to put a dime of unnecessary expense into a tire that isn’t going to retread and perform for his customer. He does all of his testing before he buffs the tire.”
The high cost of tires has caused an increased interest in recapping in heavy-duty fleets that had not taken advantage of this proven technology. Fleets that regularly use recapped tires are looking to get another cap or two on their casings. Many fleet managers recapped a casing only until it was about 5 years old, and then sold it instead of capping it again.
That strategy is changing. “Some years ago, most fleet managers would take a casing out of service after about five years,” Stuart said. “That increased to six years and now, in many cases, is at seven years and in some cases eight years. The strategy has been working well, but the applications those older casings go into need to be managed. If the tire is going to be used in a low-mileage trailer application, 40,000 or 50,000 miles a year, it will very likely offer you no problems. Capping technology has also improved, helping to make this strategy possible.”
Ryder System (www.ryder.com) has a policy of not going down to the legal limit for its over-the-road units. “The DOT legal is 2/32, but we target 4/32, which gives us a little bit of room to plan the replacement,” said Scott Perry, Ryder’s vice president of supply management. “We recognize the importance of the casing and not wearing the tread package too thin. Our customers are on full-service leases so they will bring their trucks into our service facilities on a regular basis, and our goal is to perform as much of the required maintenance on our leased vehicles at our facilities as possible. As a result, we have multiple touch points throughout the year. Because of that, we can predict when the tires will need to be removed from the vehicle.” Consequently, it’s a scheduled procedure and not a road call.
Inflation pressure is always the most important factor of tire maintenance relative to tire costs. Correct inflation will help to maximize a casing’s retreadability while minimizing wear and the tire’s negative contribution to fuel economy rolling resistance. “If you don’t have the right air pressure, you’re giving up tread mileage, giving up casing durability and you’re giving up fuel economy,” Walenga said. “A casing can be destroyed if it is run at the wrong air pressure.”
Tires will always be an expensive commodity for fleets, so it makes sense to do everything you can to control costs. Maximize the life of every casing, and when a tire comes out of service, make sure you know why. Use retreads. Keep tires aired to the correct pressure. If you’re not doing this, you’re wasting money.
About the Author: Tom Gelinas is a U.S. Army veteran who spent nearly a decade as a physicist before joining Irving-Cloud Publishing Co. While at Irving-Cloud, he worked in various editorial capacities for several trade publications including Fleet Equipment, Heavy Duty Equipment Maintenance and Transport Technology Today. Gelinas is a founding member of Truck Writers of North America, a professional association, and a contributing writer for Utility Fleet Professional.