Improving tire life through repairing and retreading.
Web Exclusive - Jim Anderson Interview
When Jim Anderson, president of Tire Guy Consulting in Phoenix, first began as the tire maintenance program supervisor for the City of Phoenix in 1993, he needed to determine what exactly was happening with their program. He shares some of those experiences in the following interview.
"We did a needs and cost assessment on what tire maintenance services were costing us and we found they were way out of bounds. We acted immediately."
He says his biggest surprise was that they were scrapping good, repairable casings. "The first thing I did was contact Bridgestone for a tire scrap analysis," says Anderson. "We managed about 10,000 tires a year plus 7,000 retreads per year. The City of Phoenix had a fleet of anywhere from hand trucks and bikes to scrapers and wheel dozers with tire sizes from 1.75-26's (bike tire) to 3.50 x 6 up to 37.25 X 35's." He continues, "The other thing was that we had a contract with a supplier for one-point service. We did a line item contract with each tire size and we did contract buys as well as open buys for anything less than 20 issues per year. Anything above that we put on a line item bid. The City of Phoenix had a zero-base budget, which is a process that does not use the previous year's budget or expenses in setting a new budget and where every expense must be justified.
My budget ran about $2.5 million a year for tire acquisitions as well as labor and services and I had approximately 5,000 to 6,000 vehicles. Our "territory" covered between 500 and 600 square miles and we had four major facilities, two satellite offices at the landfills, and seven police substations where we maintained police cars.
Most of our tire changing machines when I came in were about 20 years old and so we began a tire equipment replacement program. We tried to modernize the program by buying new machines for major facilities. The plan was to replace those every five years and then move the older machines to other facilities. We got 10 years out of our major purchases. Using this rotation system to get the best and most use out of the equipment, we were pretty much current within five years."
USE AND ABUSE
"It's a miracle what tires do. They are manufactured so well that people take them for granted," says Anderson.
He cites unique demands for medium-duty vehicles as including weight carrying, dynamic and lateral forces placed on them, scrubbing and curbing, stop and go routes, different driving habits, debris on roads and highways, and high-speed runs on highways. Heat build-up in brakes transfers to tires. Loads – weight carried are biggest demand on med-duty. With a municipality, garbage trucks may get loaded and emptied up to three times a day. You collect the weigh tickets to take a look at the loads to help determine the average weight of loads. They may only be running on the vehicle chassis weight a few times a day, but a loaded truck will have a different effect on tires. You have to be sure tires are inflated to proper pressure for the maximum load and you don't want the operator inflating and deflating the tires throughout the day. Determine what the average maximum load is for your vehicles.
"We went to maximum weight pressures, but that can cause problems too," says Anderson. "In Phoenix, we have major heat generation and heat is a real bad guy where tires are concerned. I've had some tires come in that registered 250 degrees F. Again, the inflation pressure plays a prominent role. Equilibrium temperatures are set at 190 degrees F. At this temperature, they are able to dissipate that heat." Anderson adds that under-inflation and overload cause tires to heat more rapidly and to a higher level and that automotive tires lose about one pound of air a month and truck tires can lose two to three pounds a month by air seeping through the rubber compound.
WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD
"A lot of people don't realize that most highways in the East are made of river pebbles," says Anderson. "In Arizona, they take rock and crush it and those sharp edges wear more on tires. Here in Phoenix, the heat being the main enemy of rubber tires, proper maintenance and maintaining air pressure go a long way to help the tire."
If we had tire failures on the road, we had a mounted spare road service but we found that we were maintaining two assemblies for each repair and this cost us a lot. We went to the remove and repair, reinstall program where we would demount the tire and then repair if possible. This program provided a 9 percent overall savings and enabled us to downsize the size of our service trucks. We went down to a one ton making it much easier to get these vehicles through traffic, which reduced delay time in service calls.
"There are a hundred things we did to improve and I had help from everybody. Maintenance Associations, Rubber Manufacturers Association, OSHA, NHTSA, major tire manufacturers. I was on the phone for a couple years," he laughs. "After the first three years, we started looking at OSHA for compliance training. Tire Industry Association (TIA) helped us to convince the organization that we needed at least one person to be certified and we certified 13 instructors. We proceeded to put together a training program for all of our technicians – a 40-hour program using commercial tire services manual and then customizing that to our operations. We developed a one week program to cover a CTS program that TIA offers. Two days classroom, two days hands-on, and then a retread plant tour to help employees understand the process.
Safety training is very important for anyone who services tires should know the hazards associated with tires.
Certifications, he feels, should be done, however, but as labor unions consider these a specialist certification, which would translate into more pay required, most government agencies say a certificate program is enough. Anderson says documentation of training is so important.
Anderson says administration has to support the training program or it will never work. "We also started a warranty replacement program and this worked really well. I tried to get to know the district engineers with the major tire manufacturers to develop a relationship to help work through what constitutes warranty conditions. I also went to some of the tire manufacturer training programs."
So, are fleet maintenance technicians getting enough training on tire maintenance?
"No. Every technician should at least go through the OSHA compliance basic information training," he says.
Where is the biggest training deficit? Anderson answers, "The technology schools are not knowledgeable in the tire industry to teach tire maintenance. The fleets themselves – tires are usually the second or third highest cost behind fuel and labor, but gets the least attention in recurrency training and maintaining current information. They need to realize that when they send a new employee to the tire shop, they need proper training. Don't let bad habits of senior staff be further trained down the line. A lot of the shortcuts the old timers take is putting them at risk and putting the companies at risk for a lot of liability with insurance and with OSHA. Also, each manager has to document and maintain those records. A fleet can save quite a lot even with a little training – probably an immediate 10 percent drop in costs."