With the proper monitoring of tire usage and maintenance, combined with the use of data analytics to better manage use of the tire and truck lifecycle, fleets can achieve significant savings to their bottom line.
By Brett Wilkie

When it comes to operating today’s heavy-duty trucks, tires are among the most important—and costly parts to maintain. Using the right kind of tires, effective maintenance and repair (M&R) practices, as well as implementing appropriate lifecycle strategies can save millions on a fleet’s bottom line.

Today’s robust economy means more trucks are in service and working overtime, placing additional stress on tires and increasing maintenance and repair of tires. Fleet managers face escalating costs associated with maintenance and repair (M&R), as they are the highest variable and volatile cost of a fleet operation. A 2018 industry benchmarking survey directed at transportation fleet executives revealed that 40 percent of participants listed M&R as the most significant motivators for truck replacement next to improved fuel economy, versus just 26 percent in 2015.

Tires are a leading reason why M&R costs are so high. In fact, tires, tubes, liners and valves make up 43 percent of the top-ten M&R costs to operate a truck.

Top 10 Class 8 maintenance and repair costs. Images courtesy of Fleet Advantage.

Proper Tire Use Can Help Manage These Costs
It is essential to first understand tread design, as there is a specific reason for which certain tread designs were engineered. Some treads are made for high scrub routes like regional and high pickup and delivery, while others are made for lower scrub. Some treads are engineered specifically for fuel economy while others are manufactured for enhanced traction. An easy way to cut down on tire maintenance costs is to not use a fuel economy tire next to a traction tire. If a flat occurs, the driver should effectively communicate to the shop upon returning to ensure the new replacement is for the proper application.

Tread depth tires that are mated together should have a tread depth within 10 percent of its peer tire. Anything above that will result in the newer tire having a bigger footprint on the road, resulting in higher temperatures of the tire and premature wear or even failure.

Air pressure is equally as important in tire maintenance. A tire that is 10 percent below its required pressure operates at a temperature of 20 degrees warmer than a tire at the correct pressure. This can result in degradation of the casing. It is estimated that 95 percent of tire failures are due to low air pressure. Therefore, tire pressure audits should be conducted at least twice per week. Maintenance personnel should also make a habit of walking the yard to ensure no foreign objects are lying around for tire puncture threats. Lastly, tires on the rack should also be regularly inspected to ensure they are all up to standard on their pressure levels.

Tire Cost Management Part of a Larger Picture
In addition to managing tire costs, fleets can leverage data analytics to manage the lifecycle of their vehicles, analyze the impact older trucks have on M&R costs and significantly reduce their overall Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Long-term ownership of older trucks means an organization has more variable and unpredictable costs to manage, including M&R.

As shown in the example, a shorter lifecycle produces long-term savings beyond the first year. When fleets adopt a three-year lifecycle, replacing with new equipment in year four, they realize a savings of $42,830 in M&R alone, calculated in years four through seven when compared to a fleet driving the same truck for the full seven years.

Additional M&R Benefits of Shorter Lifecycle
Newer vehicles equate to lower overall costs with MPG improvement and variable maintenance cost reduction as hard cost savings. However, in addition to these cost savings, there are many additional benefits specific to M&R that can impact a fleet’s operations and bottom line. These include the following:
• Maintenance focus is Preventative Maintenance (PM) instead of breakdown and recovery
• PM intervals are extended, and the vehicles require fewer trips to the maintenance facility, which improves uptime and truck availability
• Fewer spare vehicles are needed for maintenance and scheduled repairs
• Less parts inventory is required to maintain newer vehicles
• An aged fleet requires a highly technical technician force. A newer fleet allows a fleet manager to deploy a technician that is specific to PM and proper diagnosis

Today’s fleets continue to experience increased pressures on their M&R operations as a result of trucks in use to handle additional shipments, with particular strain on the use of tires and cost to repair and replace them. With the proper monitoring of tire usage and maintenance, combined with the use of data analytics to better manage use of the tire and truck lifecycle, fleets can achieve significant savings to their bottom line.
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Brett Wilkie is Senior Director of Fleet Services at Fleet Advantage (Fort Lauderdale, FL), a leading innovator in truck fleet business analytics, equipment financing and lifecycle cost management. As a Fleet Maintenance Professional with more than 15 years of experience in the transportation industry, Brett helps fleets and service providers maximize productivity, compliance, and efficiency. For more information, visit www.FleetAdvantage.com.

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