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Tracking tire costs

TORONTO, Ont. - Be honest. Did you purchase the tires that are currently on your rig because they were on sale the day you needed them? If so, you're not alone. But if purchase price was the main moti...


TORONTO, Ont. –Be honest. Did you purchase the tires that are currently on your rig because they were on sale the day you needed them? If so, you’re not alone. But if purchase price was the main motivator behind your buying decision, then you’re probably not getting the most value out of your investment.

Tracking tire costs can be a daunting task, especially if you don’t have the resources of a big fleet behind you. But there are reasonably uncomplicated ways owner/operators and small fleets can develop a cost-tracking program for tires.

Why track tire costs?

Tires are an owner/operator’s second largest operating cost behind fuel. But while reducing fuel consumption has garnered its share of attention in recent years, tire selection remains an oft-overlooked way of reducing operating costs.

“Proper tire selection and maintenance is one of the easiest ways for an owner/operator to save himself some money and put some of it on the bottom line for himself,” insists Greg McDonald, engineering manager with Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire.

Greg Cressman, technical services director with Yokohama, adds, “Tracking tire costs and knowing what your costs are, seems to be a moving target for a lot of owner/operators.”

However, there is help available for O/Os who want to ensure they are choosing the best tire for their application based on more than just price.

“Information is power, and once you have data compiled, you can put it to work for you to make intelligent tire decisions,” explains Tim Miller, commercial tire marketing communications manager with Goodyear.

Tracking software

Goodyear (and several other third-party vendors) now offer software solutions for tracking tire costs. The programs (namely TVTRACK and TireValueCalc in Goodyear’s case) consist of a spreadsheet that allows owner/operators or fleet managers to plug in tire-related information. The programs calculate a cost-per-mile and display it graphically, in an easy-to-understand format so customers can precisely measure how their tires are performing.

“Our belief is that a well-run tire program transcends buying quality tires,” says Miller.

Software solutions are not the only way to track tire costs, however, and some tire experts caution against relying entirely on computers when calculating tire costs.

“I’m not aware of a single software (program) that does it all very well,” says Ralph Beaveridge, marketing manager, truck tires with Michelin North America.

Bill Hume, national business director with Hankook Tire Canada, says, “An owner/operator or small fleet operator should keep good written records as to when they installed tires, performed maintenance and replaced them.”

McDonald adds a set of manila folders in a file box or an Excel spreadsheet on a laptop can be an equally effective way to track tire costs. But where do you start?

Understanding life-cycle costs

Ewing McMeekin, corporate account manager -Ontario, with Kal-Tire, says most owner/operators enter his chain of stores “looking for the best deal possible.”

There are more options available than ever before thanks to an influx of off-shore brands in recent years, which can prove tempting for some O/Os.

“We’re up against a huge temptation by folks in the market to go try some of this other stuff, but it can be a very expensive learning curve,” says Yokohama’s Cressman. “The savings might be there when they’re throwing down the credit card, but long-term it can be dubious.”

Beaveridge says owner/operators and fleets are beginning to realize purchase price is not the most important consideration when choosing a set of tires.

The company’s research suggests most O/Os and fleets are beginning to realize this.

“When we ask the question, ‘How do you plan on minimizing your tire costs going down the road?’, very few say reducing their acquisition cost is their first step. Most say they’re going to improve their use of their tires, selection of tires and maintenance to reduce costs.”

Bridgestone Firestone’s McDonald says the following should all be part of the equation when tracking tire costs: purchase price (don’t forget to assign a value to OEM tires -they’re not free); repair costs (on-road emergencies as well as spot-repairs); maintenance costs; casing value; and retreadability.

“Keep track of how many miles you’re getting for these expenses and break it down to a cost-per-mile,” he suggests.

Customers should also take note of fuel mileage. Most tire manufacturers have fuel economy databases available that compare the various brands and tread types. Asking your dealer for this information can provide a fuel economy baseline. “There are tires that are excessively penalty-ridden for fuel costs that may be attractive to purchase if you’re only looking at depth of tread or cost on the day of purchase,” warns McDonald.

Michelin’s Beaveridge admits a cost-per-mile formula may not work for every customer. The key is to develop a ‘cost-per-something’ calculation.

“Some fleets go with cost-per-hour or cost-per-load,” he adds.

Taking care of your investment

Once you’ve decided on the tire you feel is going to deliver the best value over the course of its life, it’s not enough to simply put it on the truck and ignore it.

Any tire will only live up to its full potential if it’s properly cared for, and that boils down to three things according to Beaveridge: “Pressure, pressure and pressure are one, two and three in terms of importance. Fourth is alignment.”

“Loss of air or over-inflation are the two main reasons tires wear out prematurely,” agrees Kal-Tire’s McMeekin. “If you’re going to spend $1,000-$1,500 for a good pair of steers, why not take the time to look after them?”

Tire pressures should be measured with a calibrated tire gauge during every pre-trip inspection – a thump with the hammer is not enough.

“The difference in quality between pre-trips varies as much between drivers as the preference of soda drivers like,” says McDonald. “One driver might do an excellent pre-trip and the next one walks around and if the rim is not touching the asphalt, he’s good to go.”

Beaveridge says Michelin encourages the use of tire pressure monitoring systems and simple, yet clever new devices called “Alligator caps.”

These are valve caps that work like a check valve, allowing you to check tire pressures without unscrewing the cap and risking having it stick in the open position.

Alignment should be checked frequently to protect against irregular wear and tires should be rotated as required.

“If you can maximize the original tread life through balanced wear and through timely rotations, you can get an extra 100,000 km out of these things quite easily,” insists Cressman.

What next?

So you’ve done your homework when selecting the right tire, and you’ve taken proper care of it while in use.

You’ve tracked all the costs associated with running that tire along the way, and now you’ve got a pretty good idea at what the total life-cycle cost of that tire amounted to.

“As a basic rule of thumb, when you find a tire you feel is suitable and you’re getting value for the money, that’s probably the one you should stick with until something changes,” says Hankook’s Hume.

In most cases, that tire probably wasn’t the one with the lowest sticker price at the shop.

While tracking total tire costs may seem like an intimidating undertaking for an owner/operator or small fleet, the rewards are worth the effort.

“When your job is to stay profitable through low cost-per-mile and tires are your second highest operating cost, it’s imperative to track your numbers,” concludes Miller. “It’s the only way to a solid bottom line.” •


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