Today’s trucking environment is very competitive, to say the least. Not only are fleets faced with lower freight rates, they have to deal with continually escalating operating costs. Among them: increased insurance premiums, higher fuel bills, larger driver salaries and, of late, an endless barrage of legislation and challenging regulations.
As a result, trucking companies are forced to look at any and all means to reduce their costs and protect the bottom line. To be more efficient, they have to strive to increase freight volumes with the same equipment.
This has prompted many changes in the industry. Lower platform and longer trailers have allowed vehicle manufacturers to increase capacity, for example.
The speed of operations has also been a focus. Higher speed limits allow for faster driving speeds. Faster speeds demand higher horsepower engines.
These engines must now also be more fuel-efficient and, as a result, much heavier.
Additionally, new technology is being used to track the real-time location of equipment, with a goal of keeping the truck moving and generating revenue 24 hours a day.
Recent fleet strategies have had a direct effect on vehicle tires.
Higher horsepower engines mean more torque on drive tires. Greater vehicle utilization means more annual miles. Heavier loads mean greater casing fatigue. Faster speeds generate more heat.
All of these wear tires faster.
Add to that an aging infrastructure and it simply means more demand and higher expectations are placed on the fleet’s tire investment.
Second only behind fuel, tires are one of the major contributors to a fleet’s operating cost. Tires are also a fundamental component of any fleet operation.
As the demands placed on tires increase, new and better solutions are needed to meet those demands.
Yokohama Tire Corporation, like other tire manufacturers, uses the latest cutting-edge technology to continue to develop products to meet the changing demands placed on tires.
One of the latest development at Yokohama is the Zenvironment concept, which focuses on four major elements of commercial tires:
1. Casing. This is literally the foundation upon which commercial tires are built. Much like a good solid foundation is critical in constructing a house, the casing is an integral part of any tire.
2. Rubber compounds. These are a multitude of many complex ingredients that actually determine the physical characteristics of the rubber used for a tire. Various rubber compounds are used to accommodate the demands of various applications.
For instance, a long haul steer tire requires a different rubber compound than a drive tire on a dump truck.
3. Tread design. This is the most visible element and contains features relative to the application. The various combinations of different tread elements - such as thousands of individual sipes, stress control ribs and even the actual tread depth and width - all contribute to make a product that is better suited for its intended application.
Many of these tread features are established and determined during the finite element method analysis used when creating a casing.
4. Manufacturing process. Once all the material and design components of the tire are decided, the next step is to actually manufacture the tire.
The way these four major elements of commercial tires are utilized and combined influence the performance characteristics of the tire and allow for application-specific commercial tires that provide maximum performance for the fleet, which in turn results in a lower cost of operation.