The largest single operating cost for the average fleet is fuel. And the best way to maximize your fuel economy is to choose the correct tires for your specific application and maintain them properly.
Properly maintained, tire casings can be an asset to your business, providing hundreds of thousands of miles of service in some applications. Improperly maintained tires wear out quicker, don’t handle as well and increase fuel costs.
Running on tires that are underinflated by as little as 15 psi can increase your fuel bill by 1 percent or more. One percent may sound insignificant, but check the amount you paid for fuel last year and decide if you’d like to add some of it to your bottom line instead.
Tire maintenance is an essential, cost-effective and relatively simple task. However, even the simplest of tasks are sometimes overlooked. Here are some practical ideas to help you lengthen the life of your tires and lower your operating costs.
Proper air pressure - Keeping your tires at the right pressure is an essential step toward longer-lasting tires. Drivers should have an accurate pressure gauge and be instructed to check the tires on their truck each day. No one can tell by touch or the trusty “tire kick” when tires are low.
Always use a proper pressure gauge. Follow instructions on the data plate on the truck to ensure that the tires have the correct air pressure for the loads they are carrying.
The rear-inside drive tire is difficult to access and is overlooked typically when checking pressure. When the rear-inside tire is running flat, it quickly can develop zippers. Zippers are caused by broken cables in the sidewall and significantly reduce a tire’s life.
Truck users are finding that the wide-single tires, such as the Michelin X One tires, remove the need for checking a rear-inside tire because it is no longer there.
Michelin recommends checking the rear-drive tires frequently to ensure that each tire is carrying its share of the load. All four rear tires in a dual tire situation should have identical pressures. If one tire is off by 10 psi, it will force the other tires to work harder and cause increased wear. Installing wide-single tires can also remove this worry.
Proper tire alignment - Tires that aren’t aligned properly can experience rapid and irregular wear. However, it doesn’t take expensive machinery to do a very basic check of tire alignment. By rubbing your hand on top of the tire, you can tell easily whether the truck is experiencing a toe-in or toe-out condition.
If the tires are aligned toe-in or toe-out, you will feel a condition called feathering. Tires in a toe-in condition will feel smooth as you rub your hand toward the engine. However, as you rub back toward the exterior, they will feel rough. This is referred to as smooth in, rough out. Tires in a toe-out condition will feel the opposite - rough in, smooth out.
A truck running toe-in or toe-out will have feathered tires within 200 to 300 miles.
Proper application - Tires are designed to operate in specific applications for specific loads. Make sure you choose the right tire, in each position, for your fleet. Your tire dealer or manufacturer is the best source for tire application advice. If you are not getting proper wear or performance, check the application with your tire professional.
Keep tires clean - Be sure to wash your tires, including inner and outer duals, periodically with warm soapy water. This helps to prevent premature aging of the tires and deterioration of the rubber, which may be caused by contaminants to which the tires could have been exposed.
Make sure to regularly remove all debris or foreign objects that may become trapped between the grooves. If you park some of your vehicles for long periods of time, make sure there is no oil or petroleum product on the pavement as they can deteriorate the rubber in tires.
With a regular maintenance program that includes these simple steps, you’ll improve the life of your tires and the performance of your vehicles - saving you time and money.
Doug Jones is the customer engineering support manager for Michelin Americas Truck Tires. He has been employed with Michelin for more than 32 years in various technical, engineering and management positions. In his current capacity, Jones manages the extensive team of field Michelin engineers located in Canada, Mexico and the U.S. An active member of numerous industry organizations, Jones holds a B.S. in mathematics and a B.S. in physics from Wofford College in Spartanburg, SC, and a M.S. in physics from the University of South Carolina in Columbia, SC.