As a wear item, tires are a depreciating asset. Your job, as the fleet manager, is to slow the rate of depreciation. Replacement tires as a cost category are a fleet’s second-largest operating expense, exceeded only by fuel. Depending on the size of the fleet, poor tire management can be very costly to the company’s bottom line. By maximizing tire tread life, you lower per-mile costs, resulting in fewer premature removals and optimizing the condition of tire casings, allowing for multiple retreads.
Here are 10 ways to slow the rate of “depreciation” for tires:
- Maintaining Proper Inflation Levels: The biggest influence on tire life is inflation pressure. Fleets should require a pre-trip inspection and weekly air-pressure checks, or daily, if the fleet application requires it.
- Ensure Tire Inflation Pressure is Appropriate to the Load: Tires are designed to be inflated to specific pressures based on total load. To determine the correct air pressure, gather information on your fleet’s actual axle loads and refer to tire load charts available online at most major tire manufacturers’ websites. If a fleet operates, on average, at higher or lower speeds, use the listed formulas to make the adjustments.
- Reduce Your Top Speeds: Traveling at high speeds generates more heat and accelerates tire wear. Goodyear data shows that increasing highway speeds from 55 mph to 75 mph can reduce total tread mileage by 20% or more. For example, a tire that would have provided 250,000 miles in tread life at 55 mph will only net 200,000 miles per tread at 75 mph. The drop or increase in tread life correlates to increases or decreases in speed.
- Training Drivers: Aggressive driving, including sudden stops and starts, produces excessive wear not only on tires, but also on other components. Management pressure to deliver more goods and deliver them faster can actually result in increased business expenses by accelerating tire and brake wear, not to mention increasing potential liability risk exposure.
- Drivers should be Trained to “Read” Tires: Most tires wear out prematurely as a result of irregular wear. Drivers typically don’t check tread wear unless they are having ride problems or when the vehicle is pulling one way or another. By then, it’s often too late to prevent premature wear. Regular inspections of tires can catch premature wear trends early before too much damage is done. Wear problems can be diagnosed by visual inspection or by running a hand over the tread and feeling for abnormalities.
- Replace Tires with Matching Ones: For optimum tread wear, tires should be as similar as possible across the same positions. If a tire must be prematurely replaced, it should be with a tire that matches the existing one.
- Rotate Tires: Drive tires should be rotated between forward and back positions to even out wear. Rear tires of a tandem typically will wear quicker than the forward positions. Some drive tires will also develop heel and toe wear. This can be evened out by rotation.
- Maximizing the Number of Retreads: This is a cost-effective way of extending tire life. Fleets retreading a tire three or four times is common. For example, many fleets buy brand-new all-position tires for steer axle tires, and subsequently have them retreaded for use on the drive axle. They may be retreaded a third time for use on either the drive axle or trailers.
- Avoid Neglecting the Inside Duals: Inside tires on dual assemblies are often neglected because checking inflation is not easy. Regularly check for any differentiation in dual tires.
- Know Your Tire Costs: Because every fleet is different, there is no one formula for tire management. A good tire maintenance program should use good recordkeeping to calculate tire cost-per-mile. You can’t improve what you don’t measure.
Application is the No. 1 Tire Consideration
In the final analysis, commercial tires are optimized for specific categories of operation, and selecting the right kind of tire application is a primary consideration. This requires a good understanding of the fleet application. When testing and evaluating tires, fleet managers should consider various metrics, such overall tire life, cost-per-mile, retreadability, warranty, and price.
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