At the 2021 Electric Utility Fleet Managers Conference, representatives from the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Company presented at a session about how to help lower your fleet’s tire costs and run a more efficient tire program.
Running an Efficient Tire Program
Jamie Redmond, customer engagement specialist for Goodyear’s Services and Solutions team, started the session off by discussing the importance of having a tire program in place to ensure your fleet is taken care of to your unique specifications.
“Three key components define what goes into a tire program,” said Redmond. To create the foundation of your tire program, you need to:
- Understand and define the types of products, both new and retread, that work best for your fleet.
- Establish reliable service providers that can take care of your tire needs on- demand to your unique specifications.
- Establish ongoing tire management practices to help you understand and manage your fleet’s tire assets to help drive down your overall operating costs.
“Understanding the types of products that work best for your fleet plays a significant role in driving down overall tire costs,” said Redmond. “Fleet managers will want to look for tier- one premium products that solve their needs, and one of the best ways to get the most out of their investment is through proper casing, management, and retreading.”
According to Redmond, casings are valuable assets to your tire program. Each should be bar-coded and tracked through the entirety of the retreading process, all the way until it's scanned into inventory and ready for use. In a perfect world, all of a fleet’s tire needs would be taken care of at your shop location, preventing costly and unexpected roadside breakdowns. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.
“Pretend it's three o'clock in the morning, a hurricane is bearing down, and your fleet is responding to an emergency power outage,” said Redmond. “They must get there as soon as possible. All of a sudden, they hit a branch on the road, inflicting severe sidewall tire damage resulting in immediate air pressure loss. They weren't expecting to deal with this. What do they do?” she said.
This is just one hypothetical example as to why it's critical to have a dedicated 24/7 service coordination program that can deliver the service you need to get back on the road as soon as possible.
“It's important to use a service provider that offers multiple options to quickly and easily request service, whether that's through a phone call, online service request, or even with a mobile app,” Redmond explained.
A strong dealer network will also be vital to your tire program. Fleet managers need advisors they can trust, consistent pricing, and Tire Industry Association (TIA) certified technicians. Fleet managers will want to consider the above three steps when creating a process manual. It would be wise to do so in conjunction with their tire provider, as the manual will likely become the playbook anyone who services their tires will have access to, Redmond added.
Tire Management Technologies
Austin Crayne, business development lead for Goodyear, then took over to discuss tire management technologies. Since tires are often one of the highest expenses for a fleet, they can require specialty tech tools and processes to maximize operational efficiencies and cost savings. These can help with inspection, repair, retreading, inventory management, and more.
Goodyear defines tire management by breaking it into three categories:
- Monitoring - Leveraging different technologies and tools to capture data about tires. Through monitoring, massive amounts of data can be collected.
- Insights - Taking the mountains of data captured through monitoring and condensing it down to actual results fleets can use to make decisions for their fleet’s tire program.
- Service - Service is addressing the actionable opportunities identified by different monitoring technologies and insights they provide.
Tire pressure is often the root of tire maintenance issues. If fleet managers can keep tire pressure optimal, it can have a positive effect in multiple areas, added Crayne.
According to Crayne, the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration (Commercial Vehicle Condition Sensors, Booze Allen Hamilton Inc. 2003) did a study on breakdowns of commercial fleet operators. In that study, they found just over half of breakdowns occurring over the road were tire-related. Out of those tire-related breakdowns, 85% were because of improper air pressure maintenance that ultimately led to a tire issue requiring immediate attention.
The Technology & Maintenance Council (S.2 Tire & Wheel Study Group Information Report 2010-2) also provided information about the impact of underinflation on tires. It found a constant 20% under-inflation increases the rate of treadwear by 25% and can reduce the life of a tire by 30%. They also noted fuel efficiency can be affected as well. Under-inflation by as little as 10 psi was shown to reduce fuel economy by about 1%.**
“Over time and across many vehicles, these types of impacts can add up. But having a tire management program in place can help fleets manage and reduce these costs,” Crayne said.
Crayne then discussed the three types of tire technologies currently on the market:
- Active monitoring
According to Crayne, active monitoring technologies are those that can provide information about tires back to a fleet wherever the vehicle is. These most often involve sensors interacting with some type of telematics on the vehicle. One example would be a connected tire pressure monitoring system or TPMS. These systems use sensors either attached to the tire on the wheel or screwed onto the valve stem of the tires, which then transmit information back to the fleet in the form of temperature, pressure, and leak alerts. They often provide a dashboard for fleets to access the data, run reports, and review the overall tire health of their fleet.
“Today, many systems are standalone and require their own telematics box, but this is starting to change. Many fleets have already invested in telematics of some sort, and are asking TPMS to integrate into existing platforms to eliminate the need for multiple telematics boxes on a single vehicle and to reduce the number of dashboards operations and administrators need to log into,” said Crayne.
- Digital inspection
“Traditional inspection processes for tires usually require multiple tools and items that you need to carry around, such as tread depth gauges, grease chalk, pens, and clipboards, and the process can be cumbersome,” said Crayne. “In addition, the data is usually written on a piece of paper and filed away or transposed in some software at a later date. Digital inspection refers to technologies that can help improve the traditional tire inspection process by making it quicker and more efficient and accurate. They also allow fleets to get reports instantly and build a database of historical inspection data for large-scale analysis.”
Crayne said in the future, he expects to see these types of inspection tools become part of a connected ecosystem of technology from the ability to communicate with sensors embedded inside tires, to artificial intelligence that can identify a vehicle or tire damage that might not easily be identified by the naked eye. Digital inspection usually requires minimal investment and can have some great returns in streamlining tire management operations.
- Automated inspection
Crayne explained that automated inspection technologies are designed to ingest large amounts of tire inspection data, pulling information off of vehicles that are driving over or near them, and sharing that data back to the fleet maintenance team through either email alerts or direct integration into a fleet maintenance system.
He then went on to share that some systems require sensors to be added to the tires so they can collect necessary tire data. Others can capture inspection data without putting a piece of extra hardware on the vehicle. These technologies could also provide tire damage identification, undercarriage or 360-degree body inspection, and more. As fleets continue to get more connected and diverse, this type of technology will be the key to helping keep maintenance costs down.
Which of these technologies makes the most sense for a utility fleet? Crayne said it depends on the demographics of your fleet.
“Active monitoring technologies make the most sense for fleets that are set up with a strong central maintenance team, while for larger fleets, automated inspection may be something to consider,” said Crayne. “For yards of 200 vehicles or more, it can be difficult to manually inspect tires regularly. Automated inspection can help you capture critical tire data from every vehicle and allow you to spend more time focusing on the core of your business.”
The Truth About Retreads
Dustin Lancy, commercial product marketing manager – regional/urban for Goodyear, dove deeper into helping EUFMC attendees understand the value of premium retreading.
“For all fleets, it's about selecting trusted products for the application, working with a premier dealer network, and implementing complete tire management solutions to create total mobility for your fleet,” Lancy said. “Finding a trusted advisor and dealer who can help you determine and create a customized and efficient tire program for your business is key to success. Lancy noted some fleet managers may not be confident in retreading, but he spent time debunking common myths to show how a premium retread program can save money.”
“I always thought the rubber you see on the road were from retreads, and that really gives them a bad rap. Truthfully, the number one cause of rubber on the road is excessive heat buildup in the casing,” Lancy explained.
Lancy cited a study by the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau that showed 57% of the rubber collected on the road was actually from treads of new tires. This is due to belt separation generally caused by one of three primary reasons:
- Over- or under-inflated tires - this causes the casing to flex, leading to heat buildup.
- Vehicle running overload - this produces more stress on the casing.
- Excessive speeds - especially on longer-duration trips.
A few other notable causes of casing failures are excessive wear and road hazards such as potholes or road debris. Most of these things are preventable, and a standard tire management program will reduce the frequency of these failures greatly, Lancy added.