When you purchase tires, do you think of them as an asset or a necessary expenditure? Just how you think of tires at the point of purchase may influence the care and maintenance they receive over their life-cycle. And that, in turn, could impact your tire-related expenses, one way or the other.
Tires, and the air inside them, are the only things separating a vehicle from the road surface. Without them, your truck gets nowhere. So tire experts can be forgiven for becoming frustrated when tires don’t get the respect they deserve and viewed as an asset. Truck News recently caught up with tire professionals from leading suppliers to find out how fleets and owner/operators can lower their tire-related costs.
This is Part 2 of a two-part series. Part 1, in the January issues of Truck News and Truck West, focused on the importance of inflation pressure and the not-so-subtle differences between the various SmartWay-approved tires.
Tires as a messenger
Regular tire inspections allow operators to not only monitor the health of their tires, but other aspects of their vehicles as well. Stephane Beaudoin, marketing manager, Michelin truck tires, encourages customers to think of tires as a messenger.
“If you have a mechanical problem, it’s going to show in your tire,” Beaudoin said. “Check your tires, and as soon as you see some irregular wear, make sure your bearings and things like that are in order. A lot of times we neglect the trailer, and the trailer will have some effect on your tractor (tires).”
Greg Cressman, technical services director, Yokohama, added “A regular tire inspection program – either by a fleet or a servicing dealer – will spot such things as low air, lack of valve caps, mismatched duals, misapplied tread patterns, alignment wear, mechanical wear, drive-related conditions, tires ready to be pulled for recap to save casings and so on.”
Rotation and alignment
One of those conditions that may be present if irregular wear begins to show, is a truck or trailer that’s out of alignment. Beaudoin suggested users take a tread depth gauge to compare the wear of the tires at various positions. If the tread depth is consistent, the vehicle is likely properly aligned, but if the tread depth measures 16 mms at some positions and 12 at others, “you know you have a problem,” she warned.
Trailer alignments are often overlooked, but also impact tread wear, she added. Trucks that pull a dedicated trailer could see costly tire wear if the trailer is not properly aligned.
Beaudoin said Michelin also recommends tires be rotated when there is more than 4/32nds difference between the tread depth at steer and drive positions, or more than 2/32nds difference between right and left tires on the same axle.
Most fleets today are taking advantage of retreading as a way to maximize their tire investment, but even those who are reticent to retread can capitalize on the trend. There’s a healthy market for casings that are in good condition, which varies seasonally and geographically, said Bert Jones, product marketing manager at Bridgestone Commercial Solutions.
“There is a strong demand for casings,” he said. “It varies throughout the year; it’s higher in the summer than it is in the winter and it moves through different geographic areas. You can have spot shortages. There is a strong market and need for retreadable casings.”
The retreadability of a casing should be a consideration when choosing a tire. Retreaders themselves have significant data they can share, which indicates the tire brands and models that provide the most retreads.
“Ask the tire supplier or a member of a network, what are the statistics that are available that show the average age of scrap for a particular manufacturer, how many times have those tires been retreaded and what are some of the conditions of the scrap rate?” advised Goodyear’s Donn Kramer, director of marketing and product innovation.
Goodyear and other tire manufacturers track the scrap rate of their own and competitive tires, as well as the average age of the casing when it was removed from service.
But buying a retreadable tire is not enough, added Jones.
“Air pressure, properly maintained, increases the life of the casing so you can retread it,” he said. “So you’re preserving your asset, you’re preserving the value of the casing that you paid for when you bought the new tire.”
Yokohama’s Cressman agreed. “Proper maintenance and usage procedures – air pressure maintenance, speed and load included – will allow the casing to reach its full retread potential,” he said. “Of course, no system is perfect, and it’s possible to lose even the best casing at mile number one due to a road hazard.”
Note also, the use of aftermarket tire sealants can complicate retreading. Goodyear’s Kramer pointed out that any aftermarket sealant must first be removed from the chamber, otherwise it could cause a fire during the retreading process.
Wide-base tires gaining widespread acceptance
Wide-base single tires continue to gain prominence, even though improvements in the performance of traditional duals may have slightly diminished the fuel economy advantage of single tires.
“If you took a non-fuel efficient dual setting and you went to a fuel-efficient – or SmartWay-approved – set of duals, you might get as much as a 5% improvement (in fuel economy),” Kramer explained. “If you went from non-fuel duals to wide-base, SmartWay-approved (tires), you could get as much as a 7% fuel economy improvement. So there’s still a slight improvement (from duals to singles) but the gap has narrowed significantly.”
While the performance of low rolling resistance duals can compete with that of singles, the real advantage of wide-base tires is the weight savings they provide – about 400 lbs.
“The big opportunity there is to increase revenue per load,” said Jones. “That’s why they’re so popular with bulk haulers. If they can get several hundred pounds of (additional) revenue out of that truck, that’s a big thing. I still don’t see where it can be justified strictly on fuel economy.”
Another concern with wide-base tires is that they can cause an enormous amount of damage when a blow-out occurs, Kramer noted, meaning maintaining proper inflation pressures becomes even more crucial when running wide-base singles.
Wide-base single tires, noted Jones, are still a young technology. He pointed out the tire industry has a century of experience with conventional tires and 40 years with radials.
“We only have about a decade with ultra-wide-base tires and that technology is advancing rapidly, so I think it will continue to gain share in the marketplace,” Jones predicted.
The biggest barrier to the more widespread adoption of wide-base tires, are regulatory in nature, said Michelin’s Beaudoin. “In Canada, what’s stopping us from having even more growth is the fact we can’t run them with the same carrying capacity out west as we can with duals,” she said. “That’s the only thing that’s keeping an explosion of the growth in Canada.”
She said Michelin is hoping to make some headway with legislators sometime this year. The trucking industry is on-board and also lobbying decision-makers to approve full weights to be pulled by tractors running wide-base tires.
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