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  • James Cade

Tire Management - The Basics

Tires are always in the top ten categories of maintenance expenses for fleets, but where it falls in the ranking depends on the quality of a fleet’s tire program. For fleets without a quality tire program, tires will probably be in the top two or three expense categories. Where tire expense ranks are directly determined by how a fleet manages its tires and the difference between good and bad management can amount to several cents per mile. Without a proper tire management programs, fleets will experience frequent tire failures, low miles per 32nd, and ultimately higher tire costs. The first step in establishing a good tire program is selecting the right supplier/partner to help control tire costs. It is important to evaluate the provider (OEM and dealer) of the tire and understand how they can assist in lowering costs. Many times, fleets focus solely on the acquisition cost of tires instead of looking at the entire offering. This is not to say that the price of the tire is not important, but it is just part of the decision. A good tire partner will assist a fleet in lowering costs. Helping select the right tire model and tread design for a fleet’s application is one way a tire partner can help. Providing periodic fleet surveys, training, and out-of-service tire analysis (OOSTA) are also ways a tire partner can assist. After selecting a tire OEM/dealer, determining how to evaluate the overall effectiveness of a tire program is the next step. The evaluation portion of a fleet tire program strives to recognize successes, identify areas needing improvement and drives the continuous improvement process. To achieve these goals, several key performance indicators, both leading and lagging, must be implemented. Most fleets use CPM to measure tire program success. The challenge of just using CPM to evaluate a tire program is that it does not provide the insight into what is driving program results. In addition, CPM is a lagging indicator meaning the money has already been spent. Leading indices compliment a CPM measurement and provide insight and the ability to intervene before monies are expended. One example of a leading indicator, is achieved miles per 32nd of tread wear. Creating an expectation with all maintenance personnel on an objective by wheel position allows for early identification of issues. The third step to establishing an effective tire program is to establish how tires will be maintained. There are many variables in determining the actions needed to maintain lower tire costs, the basics begin by taking A-I-M at tires. Taking AIM at tires does not mean that you use a 9mm Smith & Wesson to start shooting holes in tires. AIM is an acronym designed to communicate the basics of maximizing tire life and reducing costs. The ‘A” represents alignment. To maximize tire life, it is important that tires run straight and true with the intended direction of the vehicle. If axles are not properly aligned, tire tread wear will be accelerated often creating unusual tire wear patterns. Aligning all axles with each other, and to the chassis, will go a long way in maximizing tire life. The “I” is for inflation. The largest contributor to poor tire life is improper tire pressure. Establishing the correct pressure for the tire load, and maintaining it, will have the greatest impact on lowering tires costs. The letter “M”, is for managing tires. Understanding the application of the vehicle and equipping it with the right tire, reviewing failures, matching tire heights and many other factors must be managed to maximize tire life. The fourth step for a fleet to develop an effective tire program, with the goal to lower costs, is to implement retreading as part of a tire program. Unfortunately, many fleets ignore tire retreading based on unfounded beliefs. For example, many believe that tire debris littering the highways are exclusively from failed retreaded tires. Studies by several states (Washington, Arizona, Virginia, etc.) and NHTSA have found that the debris alongside highways is almost equally the result of failed original tires and retreads. Retreading a used tire requires 40% less investment as compared to buying a new tire. The lower investment is due to the reuse of the tire casing. Guidelines, however, must be established as to how many times the casing can be retreaded. Retreading is also a “green” technology, requiring only a fraction of the energy and oil needed to produce a new tire. Using retreads also adds to our industry's sustainability efforts by lessening the number of used tires going into landfills. Retreading is a safe and cost-efficient way to reduce tire costs.

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