Doug Jones is employed by Michelin, North America Inc. as The Customer Engineering Support Manager for North America. In this capacity he manages 30 Field Engineers located in Canada, Mexico and the US. He has been employed with Michelin for over 28 years in various technical, engineering and management positions.
Tires comprise the third highest cost in operating a truck fleet. That's why it's important that fleets have a formal tire maintenance program and policy. Fleets that don't already have a written tire maintenance policy, which is properly communicated and monitored, need to develop one. The policy needs to state established air pressure data, loads carried by vehicles and how often tires are to be inspected.
When to remove tires for retreading needs to be spelled out in any policy, as well as guidelines for the number of retreads expected for tires. The policy needs to spell out how tires will be managed from the new tire's first position as a steer tire, through the move to the drive position where the tire might be retreaded once or twice, then to the trailer position—with the number of retreads expected for this last position.
A good tire policy needs to include age specifications, which describes the expected life of the tire casing within the fleet. Fleets need to make this determination based on its application and on data related to how tires perform in that application. In addition to making determinations related to acceptable condition of a casing for retreading, such as the number of nail holes and repairs accepted, fleets also need to check tires for cracking or deterioration related to exposure to ozone, which may eliminate the casing as a good candidate for retreading.
After collecting tire data, fleets may find that there are certain changes that can be made for greater efficiency, or better cost savings. The main thing is that fleets have a written policy related to their tire business and retreading. In addition, they should establish and maintain a good working relationship with their retreader. That relationship may include giving the retreader a copy of the tire policy.
Without a doubt, the most important factor in maximizing tire casing life is maintaining proper air pressure. Proper alignment is another way to ensure that the casings live a full life. The third factor that promotes casing integrity is finding the right point to remove tires for retreading. Fleets need to be careful not to run the tread down to a point where the tire can't be retreaded, which would be 4/32nds on the steer position and 2/32nds on the drive position. Better pull points are 6/32nds for steer and 8/32nds for drive.
Training tire technicians is crucial. An untrained person can destroy good equipment without the proper training. In fact, OSHA supports this view by requiring anyone that touches a tire to have basic training. There are several places that offer formal tire handling training. Tire companies, Michelin included, provide training, and TIA now offers an accredited tire technician course.
Training should also be provided to drivers. Tire air pressure should always be checked during the pre-trip inspection and the drivers should take a good look at the condition of the tires in all positions. If repairs are needed, they should be handled immediately to avoid problems. If the tread is low, the tire should be pulled.
There are two approaches to establishing a tire maintenance program. Some fleets prefer to do it all in house while other fleets choose to outsource all or part of the program. Regardless of the option chosen by the fleet, it is a good idea to work with a dealer that is close to assist the fleet in emergency situations and is willing to work with the fleet in reducing overall tire cost.
Cheaper is not necessarily better when talking about tires. Using a cheaper tire may actually cost a fleet more in downtime and road calls. A fleet needs to keep good records to help ascertain what tire is best for that particular fleet.