How much does a tire cost? I don't mean just the purchase price of an original tire or retread. Factor in the cost of inside and outside labor, downtime due to tire failures, and the cost of carrying excessive inventory. Think about warranty administration, scrap-tire disposal, and even the cost to move a replacement tire from a main service garage to an outlying terminal.
It adds up. That's why tires are the number three operating cost at most commercial truck fleets, behind labor and fuel.
The good news is that there's an array of software tools you can use to take charge of your tire operating costs, improve your maintenance practices, and maintain the value of your casings. They range from simple do-it-yourself spreadsheets to sophisticated databases that integrate with other fleet-management software for accounting, inventory, and dispatch. Operating across a network, these big, beefy programs can streamline the flow of information among people who service and support the fleet.
Many original tire suppliers and retreaders develop their own software. The advantage is they're purpose-built for managing tires, so you get precise, intuitive control. Most require no added investments in computing hardware. Plus, there are dealers or an account manager nearby to personally help you get your stream of data flowing.
You can analyze every tire position, calculating total cost per mile using the current tread and predicted miles to removal. You can measure the impact of variables such as engine power, axle configuration, and loads on tire life. You can compare one tire combination with a different one to understand which makes the most sense for the application.
As you evaluate your options, here are four tactics to keep your tire-management program on track.
- Focus on casing value.
You can attribute 70 to 80 percent of the cost of an original tire to its casing. The real ROI of any tire-management program, then, comes from getting maximum mileage from the casing and top dollar when it's time to retread. For example, regulations require at least 4/32 in. of tread on the steer tires and at least 2/32 in. of tread elsewhere on the vehicle. But pulling tires at 4/32 or 5/32 may improve retreadability and more than compensate for any loss in tread rubber and mileage.
As you build historical data about each casing, don't lose it during the retread process. Our GTRACS NG® program, for instance, tracks casings using barcodes attached to their sides. When they're sent to a Goodyear authorized retreader, the casings are scanned and your account is updated with the latest service records. This helps ensure the proper retread services are performed and provides a traceable record of all tire service.
- Analyze each position separately.
Wheel position affects tire wear, so it's imperative to analyze each position separately. You want to predict how many new tires and retreads you will need per year at a specific wheel position, and when to rotate tires to optimize tread life. For example, a steer tire may see duty on both sides of the vehicle, on a drive axle, on a trailer, and on a converter dolly in order to wring out the last remaining 32nds of an inch of tread depth. On the other hand, you wouldn't rotate tires spec'd for a specific job—say, open-shoulder, deep-lug drive tires—unless irregular wear is apparent or the wear rate on the tires is noticeably different from axle to axle.
- Convey results.
Your tire-management software should deliver results in different ways that make allow you to make sense of the data. For example, Goodyear's tire-management program, TVTRACK, uses graphs to provide a visual picture of your data. It's especially important when you convey information to other managers, supervisors, technicians, and drivers.
- Ask for help.
Draw on the experience of your tire supplier or dealer to help you interpret your results. Irregular steer-tire wear may be a front-end alignment issue. Or, maybe the tires are under-inflated for the weights you carry. Your tire supplier or dealer can provide perspective that gives life to the data and helps you make informed decisions.
Tim Miller has been with Goodyear for more than 30 years, including positions as a tire design engineer and technical representative to OEMs and large commercial tire customers. Miller is Goodyear's marketing communications manager for commercial tires; you can reach him at email@example.com