Fuel-efficient tires

In the past, buying a fuel-efficient tire meant sacrificing things like traction and tread life. But according to Tim Miller, marketing communications manager for Goodyear, the performance gaps between standard and fuel-efficient tire offerings have narrowed, providing more options to help mitigate pain at the pump.

The scientific relationship between tires and fuel-efficiency is well known: As each tire on a vehicle rolls down the road, it creates a drag force. Known as rolling resistance, this energy loss is caused by the deflection of the tire sidewall and the compression of the tire tread on the road surface.

Reducing this energy loss, combined with improvements in other areas such as aerodynamics and driver behavior, can go a long way towards boosting fuel economy.

Research shows that tire tread contributes to more than half of a tire’s rolling resistance. In order to make a tire more fuel-efficient, manufacturers such as Goodyear modified the tire’s tread compound, tread pattern, and tread depth - which resulted in fuel-efficient tires that could offer 20% lower rolling resistance and deliver a 3.5% improvement in fluid economy. But these fuel-saving tires used to require some compromises on the part of the truck owner.

Goodyear launched its latest example of advanced tire technology in May: A new, SmartWay-approved fuel-efficient tire with full-tread depth, which also provides excellent traction and long wear. In addition, the company has begun distributing wide-base single tires.

Because single tires weigh less than double-tire configurations, single tires can be both are more fuel-efficient and can allow for bigger payloads. The new single tires feature a technology called DuraSeal which seals a tire puncture up to a quarter-inch deep in diameter - which Miller says should ease driver concerns about being stuck on the road if the one tire goes down.

“Fuel-efficient tires cost a little bit more, but fleets have proven that they pay for themselves in a relatively short time,” Miller adds. “And as fuel prices go up, the more they make sense.”

While tire tread technology is focused mostly on aiding the fuel economy of on-highway fleets, tires are less of a factor when it comes to fuel economy for off-highway applications like construction or refuse pick-up. (For those applications, high idle-times and frequent start/stop operation are typically the culprits.)

Those businesses are more worried about getting the traction they need, or resisting the chipping or chunking of the compound tread area on their tires when trudging through a landfill or quarry.

But Miller is quick to point out that all trucks benefit from proper tire inflation. It’s one of the easiest things you can do to save money, he notes, for fuel economy falls off sharply the more your tires are underinflated. “Keeping tires properly inflated will go a long way towards the durability of the casings, but it also ensures the tires are running down the road efficiently,” says Miller.

However, when it comes to improving fuel economy, perhaps even more important than tires is monitoring the driving habits of those behind the wheel. Aggressive driving habits can rapidly negate any investments in fuel-efficient or aerodynamic technologies.

And reducing speed can have a tremendous impact: On average, every 1-mph increase over 50 mph reduces fuel mileage by .1 miles per gallon. With today’s technology, it’s easy to track and reward drivers who meet fuel economy goals.

Shifting has a huge impact as well. While accelerating, experts suggest short-shifting to keep your engine below 1,200 rpms; while decelerating, lug your engine to 1,150 rpms before downshifting.

When tackling rising fuel costs, the bottom line is this: Find the right balance of fuel-saving strategies that makes sense for your specific operation and application. And remember, little things can add up to big savings in the long run.

For more tire-related fuel saving tips, go to: www.goodyear.com/truck/support/feqs.html/