Bridgestone is launching a new system with solutions and sustainability in mind.
While measuring tire tread depth has been done manually in the past, Bridgestone’s Last Mile Tire System (LMTS), set to officially launch in early 2023, automates the process.
Bridgestone’s Christine Reagan, director of retread solutions, and Ben Rosenblum, executive director of commercial development, discussed how the system works, its role in tires as a service (TaaS), and the benefits it will bring the small- and medium-sized fleets.
Detecting Tread Depth
Bridgestone’s LMTS measures tire tread depth using a digital tread reader that measures tread depth on each tire when vehicles roll over it.
Digital tread readings provide data to optimize when the tire should be changed, staying within DOT depth regulations and conserving fleet budget if there is enough tread depth left on the tire.
The Bridgestone system will dispatch service automatically when low tread depth is detected. Reagan discussed how LMTS fits into TaaS.
“What we consider under tires as a service is really how we can bring a tire program in the form of a service model to smaller independent contractors or to the small and medium fleets,” Reagan said.
Bridgestone is aiming to help smaller independent contractors better understand how to manage tires, buy the right ones, and when to pull them.
Reagan credited new technologies that go hand-in-hand with the system.
“We've been able to integrate new technologies that enable us to drive efficiency,” Reagan said. “We're really leveraging these technologies around tread depth measurements, enabling efficient service, and then the billing side creates that service piece for these fleets.”
The LMTS uses a pay-as-you-go model that allows fleets to only pay for tire use. According to Bridgestone, the service is optimized for delivery fleets, though other fleet vocations can use the system.
“With this subscription model, our goal is to drive large fleet efficiency to smaller, smaller fleets,” Rosenblum said. “There's ample opportunity to take the waste out of the system.”
Rosenblum said the LMTS can optimize how fleets purchase tires, and the company’s goal is to sell them as few tires as possible.
“Our goal of the program is to be as efficient as possible,” Rosenblum said. “We want to help them do it in a way that actually improves sustainability at the same time. So this is a very different approach to selling tires than I think that the market is accustomed to.”
Bridgestone Customer Feedback
The system debuted over the summer at the 2022 Route Consultant Expo. More than 500 FedEx fleet contractors expressed interest as potential early adopters of the LMTS, according to Bridgestone.
Bridgestone said the initial feedback has been positive and it has received “a lot of interest,” with a majority of fleets in attendance sending the company their contact information after seeing a presentation of the system.
“So where we've actually implemented the program, we've seen tire life improvement for up to 50%,” Reagan said.
Rosenblum said Bridgestone has not been able to roll out the system to the companies that have expressed interest.
“That's the goal for 2023 as we start to roll this out and move beyond pilots,” he added. Bridgestone faced some challenges in developing the pilot for the LMTS.
One of the biggest challenges for the company was the pay-as-you-model.
“The pay-as-you-go model is fairly new to the customers,” Reagan said. “There were some education bases that had to be covered with the fleets, and then there were also internal systems that we had to work through. We had to understand our own financial systems more and work with the IT department and finance on how that gets structured.”
Rosenblum cited emerging technology as another challenge.
“From a technology standpoint, we're at the ground floor right now,” Rosenblum said. “We have the tread depth reader, and there are other technologies such as radio-frequency identification (RFID) we plan to implement that can help make the program even more efficient. We're still working through the technical aspect and how we bring it to life.”
Bringing Efficiency to Small Fleets
Bridgestone’s LMTS has the ultimate goal of bringing large fleet efficiency to smaller fleets. This system is aimed to help small- and medium-sized fleets with tire management while keeping sustainability at the forefront.
With the payment model, fleets have more access to Bridgestone’s products.
“When we've talked to these fleets, they would love to use a Bridgestone tire, but they just can't afford it with the way the economy is,” Reagan said. “Within our program, they get access to those premium tires. They also are now able to get insights on how their tires actually performed.”
The system can show how tires are performing based on different vehicles and the routes that they're running, according to Bridgestone. And with the payment model, fleets do not have to pay upfront for the tire. Fleets only pay for what they use.
“We know that the industry, especially for the small fleets, is really kind of set up against them,” Reagan said. “If you go into a tire shop, that tire dealer is very likely to tell you that you need to replace your tire because he's making money on every tire that he's selling.”
Bridgestone emphasized transparency along the way as a core value of the LMTS program.
“There's a perception, anytime you're dealing with any large company, they'll take advantage of you,” Rosenblum said. “So for us, we really pride ourselves on transparency. Everything you'll get billed for down to the exact tire location, we're going to be completely transparent and completely objective, using the best technology that we have to both drive insights to your fleet where you have issues.”
Sustainability is another focus of Bridgestone’s new system. Rosenblum said the company has an opportunity to reduce the environmental impact by 50%.
“When I say 50%, it's tire waste,” he said. “I think we can easily exceed that. We're actually planning to run a study in 2023 to kind of formalize those numbers, but our goal is in excess of 50%.”
Reagan added that the system drives the sustainability focus of Bridgestone.
“The sustainability side is obviously something that's really important to Bridgestone and is at the core of all of our new solutions that we're launching,” Reagan said.
Not only is Bridgestone looking to improve smaller fleet efficiency with the LMTS, the company sees this as a chance to improve its products.
“As we change the business model, and we can change how people are buying their tires, it allows us to better design products,” Rosenblum said. “You have to solve the way people buy tires. You have to solve the way they manage tires. With this program, it's really just the start of hopefully changing the way people think about and manage their tires.”