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How do fleets manage tires?

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How do fleets manage tires?

The S.2 Tire and Wheel Study Group of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) recently conducted a tire management survey, which produced some eye-opening statistics.

Four fleets presented overviews of their tire management experiences at TMC’s recent annual meeting in Nashville, Tenn., in a session called Benchmarking the Success of your Tire Program.

While these four diverse fleets were not necessarily part of the survey results, this inside look will prove valuable to help your  fleet customers get the most out of their tire purchases.

FedEx Ground, Pittsburgh, Penn.

• Fleet: 33,240 single-axle trailers, 10,032 tandem trailers, 9,000 single axle converter dollies for a total of 256,000 wheel positions.

• FedEx Ground retreads all casings up to six years of age then downgrades them to switcher tractors, getting an average of two retreads per trailer tire and one per yard tractor.

• All new and retreaded tires are SmartWay-verified, low-profile 22.5 duals. They tried wide-base singles but are now moving away from them.  All tire work is subcontracted.

• They have automatic tire inflation systems on 28,000 single-axle 28-foot trailers and dollies.

• Tire pressure: 85 psi because the trailers run very light loads.

Major challenges: Getting consistent fleet inspections with tire conditions and pressure checks. FedEx Ground is currently looking for ways to improve the accuracy and frequency of tire inspections with data-driven solutions through onboard pressure monitoring and telematics.

Crete Carrier Corp. Lincoln, Neb.

• Fleet: 12,500 tandem trailers and 5,000 power units with 150,000 wheel position across three company divisions van, flat and refrigerated.

• Crete retreads an average of 2.5 times per tire up to six years of casing age.

• All new and retreaded tires are SmartWay-verified; 295/75R-22.5 is the predominant size.

• Tire pressure: 110 psi on steer tires, 100 psi on drive tires and 95 psi on trailer tires.

• Crete has a mounted inventory program and actively conducts scrap tire analysis.

Major challenges: Having enough time to evaluate tires. Tire inspections are difficult because the equipment isn’t in often enough. Crete lacks the ability to track casings from cradle to grave. They lose a lot of casings in over-the-road repairs so they lose twice — no casing value and loss of failure analysis.

South Shore Carriers, Sandusky, Ohio

• Fleet: 200 power units, 450 trailers, mostly flatdecks. Local/regional carrier with 240-mile average length-of-haul mostly loaded one way, return empty.

• South Shore retreads casings up to seven years old. Steer tires are retreaded the first time for drive positions; drive tires are retreaded first time for drive position and second time for trailer position.

• The company runs spread-axle flatdecks, which are hard on tires because of the dragging that occurs in turns. That’s what makes retreading difficult.

• Wide-base single tires are retreaded once for drive positions.

• The company runs mostly 11R22.5 dual tires, though it recently purchased some used equipment on low-profile 22.5 tires, so it’s starting to move in that direction. Sixty power units are currently running 455-size wide-base single tires because of weight sensitivity. South Shore runs 100 psi in all tires except wide-base singles, which are 125 psi.

• Currently using automatic tire inflation on 50% of the fleet and installing on all new equipment.

Major challenges: Trying to get drivers to check tire pressure and condition during pre-and post-trip inspections and avoid curbing the trailer tires. Exploring ways of lowering tire cost per mile.

Batesville Logistics Inc., Batesville, Ind.

• Fleet: 82 tandem tractors, 311 pup trailers, 117 53-foot trailers running low-profile 22.5 low-rolling-resistance dual tires. Very few wide-base singles are in the fleet.

• Tires are retreaded up to five years of age with no more than two repairs (with no shoulder or section repairs) for drives, and casings up to six years of age for trailers with a maximum of two shoulder and one section repairs. The fleet runs all tires down to 4/32-inch tread depth.

• Inflation pressures are 100 psi in the steer, dolly and trailer positions, 95 psi in the drive tires.

• Currently testing automatic inflation systems on 24 new pup trailers.

Major challenges: Trying to get drivers to participate in tire maintenance, with regular gauged pressure checks and condition reports.

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Fleet priorities

Each of these four fleets has different priorities and strategies for improving tire life and lowering costs. FedEx Ground, for example, is experimenting with various tire pressures.

The company ran its tires at 85 psi for 10 years, and is now trying to see if wear improves or worsens at 95 psi. The company also is testing steer tires on its dollies rather than trailer tires.”

At Crete Carriers, the ongoing struggle is early detection of wear and conditions that could cause problems out on the road.

It tries to identify irregular wear before it becomes serious enough to cause permanent damage to a tire, and it tries to stay on top of inflation pressure so it doesn’t result in an on-road failure.

At Batesville, the company is attempting to get the best possible mileage out of its fuel-efficient tires. It is looking at a few different scenarios such as running only original tires on drives and retreads on the trailers or vice versa. It also is looking at casing value and whether the company is better off retreading or selling off its tires as used.

South Shore has perhaps the largest challenges to overcome, with its full load out and empty back scenario. Also, spread-axle trailers just eat tires, the company says.

The company is trying a new retread that was designed just for spread-axle trailers, and it’s working well so far. On the tractors, the company is aggressive with monitoring tread depth and wear. It rotates the tires frequently and expects to get 300,000 miles on a set of drive tires.

And finally, another issue that most fleets grapple with regularly is alignment. None of the four sample fleets do regular alignments on tractors, but they do watch closely for truck-induced premature wear. Each said they will do an alignment when the situation demands.

The surveyed companies noted that drivers can be involved in tire maintenance as “early warning systems,” but some drivers just won’t get involved.

Drivers are supposed to check tires as part of the pre- and post-trip inspection with a gauge, but it is a “hard sell” to get them to do it.

Some said drivers tend to pay more attention to the tractors than the trailers, so the automatic tire inflation system is hooked into the telematics system to notify fleet managers of airing events on trailers.    ■

Jim Park is equipment editor for MTD’s sister publication Heavy Duty Trucking.

Tire survey quick facts from the Technology and Maintenance Council

The S.2 Tire and Wheel Study Group of the American Trucking Associations’ Technology and Maintenance Council (TMC) surveyed 435 fleets.

Of the 21 respondents, 50% were line haul operations, 41% regional and 29% reported some pickup and delivery. The average number of trailers in the responding fleets was 2,093, indicating some large fleets responded. Here’s a quick look at some of the results.

Uptake of fuel-efficient, low-rolling-resistance tires:

Steer position: 94%

Drive position: 88%

Trailer position: 81%

Wide-base single tires:

Eight of the 21 fleets reported using at a drive position, 11 on trailers

Frequency of tire pressure checks:

Daily: 4%

Weekly: 33%

Monthly: 19%

Only at PM interval: 29%

Uptake on tire maintenance technology:

Automatic tire inflation system on trailer: 62%

Tire pressure monitoring: 29% – 50/50 tractor and trailer

Average tire mileage to take-off by position:

Steer position: 117,000

Drive position: 236,000

Trailer position: 123,000

Average frequency of tire-related roadside service calls:

Average across the 21-fleet sample was 93 service calls per month.

Average monthly mileage for the 21 fleets was 6.9 million, for an average of one service call every 74,000 miles, or about 1.5 service calls per year per tractor.

The average for trailers is higher than that.

The top two reasons for tire service calls are road hazards/impact breaks and under-inflation due to a puncture.

Fleets doing scrap tire pile analysis: 88%

Fleets using an add-on aftermarket tire sealant: 14% (two fleets reported using sealants on drive tires; one fleet used sealant on trailer tires)

Fleets actively benchmarking against competition: 25%

To read the entire June 2014 issue of Modern Tire Dealer, see our digital version here.

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