Scrap tire analysis can provide you with a wealth of knowledge that can help you make better decisions, with regard to maintenance, tire selection, retread specification and driver-related programs in your fleet.
By Jason C. Miller
Tires are witness to everything that goes on in a truck and are filled with information that can tell you a great deal about your fleet. There are many reasons tires are removed from service outside of normal wear—ranging from driver-related behavior, to running the wrong type of tires in a particular application, to vehicle condition such as alignment or worn suspension components.
The good news is that it is relatively easy to identify many of the issues that lead to early tire removal by analyzing the tires. By pinpointing common reoccurring problems, you can make decisions that will help prolong the life of your tires moving forward. Plus, you can find tires that best fit your operation.
The value of a scrap tire program will vary from fleet to fleet, but those with a laissez-faire approach to tire programs might be missing out. Most fleets can save thousands of dollars by taking the information gained through scrap tire programs and applying that knowledge when making fleet-wide decisions.
As beneficial as scrap tire analysis can be, few fleets take advantage. In my career working with fleets, a small percent take the time to inspect their scrap tires on a regular basis. They are missing out. In fact, when asking the industry’s highest performing fleet tire service providers what the most effective way to reduce a fleet’s overall maintenance spend is, the answer is almost always, consistently analyzing the scrap tires. While this is the most effective way, there is nothing easy about going through scrap tires. They are dirty, heavy, often kept outside and, in some extreme cases of badly damaged tires, they bite.
So, what does it take to develop a solid scrap tire program? And, what exactly can you expect to find? Here is a glimpse.
The first rule of thumb to creating an efficient scrap tire program is to stay organized. That is key. Once a tire is pulled from service, you should take a few seconds to inspect the tire and mark the sidewall with a crayon or paint stick to indicate why it was removed from service. It does not need to be a thorough inspection, as you will go through them later, but this will give you a rough idea of why the tire was removed. If you let your scrap tire pile build up without any organization, performing a tire analysis will be much more time consuming.
A key step while making your initial inspection is making sure the tires are inflated. Why? Because if a tire failed due to a puncture or slow leak, it may be difficult to find the problem area if it is flat. Inflating flat tires is a must. A good reference is the Radial Tire Conditions Analysis Guide by TMC (Technology & Maintenance Council). It contains all sorts of information, photos of all kinds of tire conditions and the probable causes. Tires that have worn evenly down to your “pull point” and are ready for retreads should be set aside in their own area so that they cannot be mistaken for scrap. There is really no magic number for what percentage of the tires removed should be retreadable. It varies significantly from one fleet to the next. The key here is to identify causes and trends. Over time as you regularly go through your scrap tires and implement program improvements, you should see an increase in the percentage of tires that can be retreaded.
When it comes time to perform a scrap tire analysis, see if your tire dealer can help. It is nice to have an industry expert with you—they will likely catch things you miss or confirm the reason a tire was removed from service. After all, they are probably looking at hundreds of tires per day coming in from dozens of customers. Whatever you are seeing, they have probably seen many times before. If you are a large fleet, say 100 or more trucks, or if you operate in especially harsh conditions such as driving in and out of landfills, you should inspect your scrap tires every month. Otherwise, you should check once every quarter for at least the first few cycles.
What to Look for
The information you record when you analyze your tires will make or break your entire program. Be consistent with what you are recording. The potential cost savings are found by identifying recurring issues that lead to early removal. A few random tires that have uneven wear will not tell you much. Unevenly worn tires continuously pulled from a specific truck, with a particular tire brand, along a specific route, or with the same driver, will provide the information you need to narrow down the “cause and effect.”
Using a spreadsheet allows you to stay organized when you record and save information. That way you can run reports and easily compare current and past tire analysis results. Without one, it will be difficult to find opportunities for improving your tires’ performance. The more information you have, the better off you will be. Here is a general outline of some of the information you should take down when you inspect your tires:
• Truck unit and tire position
• Tire brand type
• Number of retreads
• Last retread DOT/date
• Numbers of repairs
• Remaining tread
• Tire size and load rating
• Name of driver (if applicable)
• Reason the tire was removed *Most important, by far
With this information, you can essentially track all of your tires. Say you see a set of the same tire brand/model consistently being removed early. By knowing that, you can sort through the information you have recorded in your spreadsheet to see if they share a common pull factor that could explain the early removal from service.
What to Expect
When you perform your first scrap tire analysis, you will likely find a mixed bag of reasons as to why your tires were pulled from service. The idea is, the more you perform these checks, the more informed you will be to identify areas for improvement in your tire programs. Let’s take a look at some of the common, solvable issues you may find when you go through a scrap tire analysis.
Hard braking and sidewall damage is tough to avoid in a waste haul application, but some tire models are better at resisting damage from these conditions. Underinflation damage, on the other hand, can usually be attributed to a driver’s failure to perform regular pre-trip inspections. Maintaining optimal tire inflation is the single most important thing you can do to extend the life of your tires. This is especially true for waste fleets. If you are seeing a number of tires with irregular tread wear, or a change in color in the lower sidewall or flattening of the bead area, that may indicate that tires are underinflated. Many waste fleets find this to be a leading cause of tire failure and early removal. If, through scrap analysis, you find this to be the case in your fleet, you might consider hiring a dedicated person or third party to perform daily air pressure inspections. When you do, be sure the person is using a properly calibrated air pressure gauge. As a rule of thumb, any tire that is more than 10 percent underinflated should be aired up to the proper specification. Any tire found to be more than 20 percent underinflated should be pulled for inspection and repair.
Truck make, model and configuration play a role in tread wear. Not all trucks are spec’d the same—even trucks that share similar horsepower and torque ratings handle the power generated in their own way. There are also significant differences in weight distribution between trucks particularly when comparing side load, rear load and front load configurations. Because of this, a tire may not wear the same on two different truck makes. What’s more, specific applications and geography can have drastic effects on tire life. For example, trucks used for residential collection undergo frequent stopping, starting and turning, causing exceptionally fast wear. Then, there is general geography. Some states, such as Florida, use exceptionally coarse aggregates in their pavement. This coarse pavement combined with high heat often leads to even faster wear rates. For all of the above reasons, waste fleets tend to experience radically different wear between trucks.
High speeds are a special consideration for waste fleets. Tires engineered to endure tough applications are often speed restricted. If a truck is driving over the highway to get to a region where it will be engaging in residential collection, finding a tire that can operate safely and effectively in both highway and high scrub conditions can be a challenge. If you are struggling to find the right tire for such an application, your tire dealer should be able to come up with a new solution.
How confident are you in your fleet’s tire maintenance program? Are your tires regularly rotated, aligned and checked for punctures? Are your duals properly mated? Your scrap tire analysis will let you know how you are doing.
If you notice excessive toe wear, that is a distinct indication of a truck that is out of alignment or has worn or damaged mechanical components. Additionally, when you pull trailer tires and see signs of weathering or ozone cracking, check the tire date code. It is likely those tires are nearing or past their serviceable date. When your trucks come in for preventive maintenance, it is a good idea to spend some time checking the conditions of tires and make adjustments accordingly to better ensure proper wear.
Working with Retreaders and Repair Shops
Of the tires that are sent in to be retreaded, what percent are typically rejected? Is the reject percentage going up or down? What are the most common reject causes? It is important that you regularly audit the tires that are rejected, especially if your rejection rate seems high. Ask for the rejected tires back from your retreader so that you can perform a tire analysis of your own or have your retreader hold the tires until you can inspect them together. You may be surprised what you find.
Another benefit of performing scrap tire analysis is that you can recover more on warranties. For example, if a retreader missed a nail hole during a retread and you experienced issues with that tire, you are more likely to discover the retread failure and claim the warranty.
If possible, every time a driver has to replace a tire on the road, have them save the tire rather than discarding it. When performing a tire analysis, you may find that the cause of removal was something other than a puncture. If the tire is thrown away, you miss the opportunity of finding the true reason for the failures.
Commit the Time: It will Pay you Back
Scrap tire analysis can provide you with a wealth of knowledge that can help you make better decisions with regards to maintenance, tire selection, retread specification and driver-related programs in your fleet. There is always more to be learned about your tires as you perform these analyses. Over time, you may be able to pick between a couple tire brands that provide the longest life to removal, fuel economy, cut, curbing and/or scrub resistance or other factors that best fit the needs of your fleet. Knowledge is power and the reward is certainly worth the effort. | WA
Jason C. Miller is Cooper Tire’s (Findlay, OH) National Fleet Channel Sales Manager. He has worked in all aspects of the tire industry, mastering complex tire programs for some of the largest fleets in North America. A member of the Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) of the American Trucking Associations, Jason is also a TIA Certified Tire Instructor and former ASE certified technician. For more information visit, http://coopertrucktires.com.