The tires on your fleet vehicles form, quite literally, the foundation for your fleet's effectiveness. Yet the tires are often the most overlooked among the fleet's systems. If you want to lower your operating costs and improve the effectiveness of your light-duty trucks, while also reducing the risk of roadside breakdowns, it's time to pay attention to tire maintenance.

Here are some maintenance steps you can take to ensure your tires are running exceptionally well:

Check the Tire Pressure

Keeping your tires properly inflated not only gets the best performance from them — increasing your gas mileage on your trucks — but it also prolongs tire life. Every truck and tire has an optimal tire pressure rating, and only a small variance from this optimal level is acceptable without a negative impact on the performance of the truck. If the tire is overinflated, the ride will be harsh and the tire will be more prone to puncture from road hazards. If the tire is underinflated, it will begin to wear irregularly, will run hotter and can fail prematurely.

Tire pressure can change for a number of reasons. While leaks may be an obvious reason, the temperature can also affect the pressure in the tires. This is why you need to check the pressure regularly.

If your trucks are newer, they may have tire pressure monitoring systems. If not, make a habit of checking tire pressure every time you fill up. Have a program in place that ensures the tire pressure is checked on a regular basis to avoid the problems of improper pressure.

Photo courtesy of Goodyear

Photo courtesy of Goodyear

Plan Monthly Tire Inspections

Monthly tire inspections should be part of the maintenance routine for your fleet. At these inspections, you need to not only look at the tire, but also feel it for signs of uneven wear. If the tread is wearing unevenly, it is a sign that the vehicle needs an alignment. During the inspection, check for problems on the tire wall and any other areas of the tire that could indicate a problem. By spotting problems before they escalate, you can avoid a side-of-the-road emergency.

Choose Quality Valve Caps

On light-duty trucks and other commercial vehicles, the valve cap is one of the most important parts of the tire, because it is the primary protection against air loss. Metal valve caps are going to hold a tight seal, and are also a bit harder to lose than other options. Flow-through caps make it easier to check and fix air pressure without the risk of losing the cap or simply ignoring these tasks because of the hassle.

Clean the Tires and Wheels

It’s imperative to keep the tires and wheels clean: Salt, snow, ice and road debris that are not washed off the tires can lead to rubber deterioration. The metal on the wheels can corrode after exposure to chemicals and road salt.

Washing tires and wheels is not difficult. Simply use warm, soapy water and wash inside and outside. Avoid petroleum-based cleaning solvents, which can damage the rubber, and be cautious with high pressure as well.

Invest in an Alignment

If your vehicle is not properly aligned, the tires are going to wear unevenly. Make sure you invest in an alignment on a regular basis for your trucks, so that you can prevent this problem.

How often do you need an alignment? The answer depends on how often and how far you drive your trucks. If you are noticing signs of uneven wear or your drivers are reporting that the trucks aren't handling well, then an alignment is due.

Taking care of the tires on your trucks doesn't have to be difficult. With these small changes and maintenance tasks, you can ensure your tires serve your fleet well.

About the Author

Ryan Holtzer is Chief Executive Officer at Tires By Web, a leading tire and wheel e-commerce company serving the lower 48 states. Before joining Tires By Web in 2004, he completed General Electric’s Financial Management Program and has served as a Black Belt in GE’s Six Sigma Initiative.