Despite some challenges due to their design, some tire makers are still extolling the virtues of wide-base tires: They are easier to check for inflation, and easier to maintain. They offer significant reductions in rolling resistance due to advanced compounding, plus lower weight from two less beads, sidewalls and rim assemblies. This translates directly into both fuel and maintenance savings for cost-conscious fleets and owner-operators.
“The traditional wide-base tires (typically 65 series and 425/65R22.5) are enjoying healthy growth among heavy-duty trucks for construction, ready mix service,” said William Estupinan, vice president of Technical Service for GITI Tire (USA) Ltd.
“The wide-base tires are designed to replace a dual set in drive and trailer axles. The most popular sizes are 445/50R22.5 and 455/55R22.5. The first one replaces LP duals and the second one replaces standard duals.”
Estupinan said the wide-base tire segment is among the fastest growing niche markets in the tire industry. This is in both replacement and OE as an option by truck manufacturers. “The two main factors that explain this trend are lower rolling resistance, which has a great impact in fuel economy (6% to 10% savings), and lowering overall weight of the vehicle by as much as 1,000 or 1,300 pounds when used in place of duals on drive and trailer positions,” Estupinan explained.
“The weight difference depends on the wheels being made of steel or aluminum.”
Estupinan said the challenges of wide-base tires include serviceability on the road, lower retreadability and lower tread life. GITI is working on these challenges and is currently developing a family of wide-base tires.
It’s a good time for wide-base tires to make a mark in the commercial truck tire market. According to the Rubber Manufacturers Association’s (RMA) 2012 Factbook, in the domestic replacement market, truck and bus tire shipments were up 4.4% last year (from 15.8 million in 2010 to 16.5 million in 2011).
Original equipment truck tire shipments were up 53.1% last year over 2010, to 4.9 million. Overall production in 2011 was up 15.4% for truck tires.
All for one, one for all?
So is switching to wide-base the right move for everyone?
“There is a place for wide-base, fuel-efficient tires, but they are not a fit for every trucking operation,” said John Hull, national truck tire sales manager, Alliance Tire Americas. “The best fit for wide-base tires is for those hauls that weight out before they cube out, like fuel haulers.
Hull says the fuel economy from wide-base tires is a proven advantage, but the conversion cost is steep. This is especially true for individual owner-operators.
“That’s why I think the future of wide-base lies in OE fitment — when an owner-operator can make the shift to wide-base at the point of purchase of his truck, I think we’ll see a marked increase in usage,” Hull explained.
“Fuel continues to grow as a very important top-of-mind for fleets,” said Clif Armstrong, director of marketing, Commercial Vehicle Tires – the Americas, Continental Tire the Americas LLC. “Wide-base tires are a part of this fuel efficient equation. Simply put, fleets will see better fuel economy with wide-base tires. However, there are many factors that a fleet must consider when looking at wide-base tires. Servicing tire dealers will need to be knowledgeable on the latest fuel saving technologies in order to partner with their fleet customers.”
While there appears to be much room for growth in the wide-base truck tire market, the segment still only represents a fraction of the entire market.
“The market for wide-base truck tires is relatively small, representing about 1.5% of the overall truck tire market,” said Donn Kramer, director of product marketing, Goodyear Commercial Tire Systems.
“However, demand for wide-base tires continues to increase, leading to double-digit growth in wide-base’s share of the total market.
“We believe the wide-base segment has a bright future, as does the market for low rolling resistance truck tires, which will remain a key ‘want’ of fleets as they strive to manage consistently elevated fuel costs.”
Wide-base tires have many advantages for long-haul trucking fleets. These include weight savings, improved fuel efficiency and improved ride comfort. But a wider base means a larger tread area — and an increased risk of punctures.
“Last year, Goodyear addressed that issue by introducing two wide-base tires for long-haul applications that contain our exclusive DuraSeal Technology, the G392 SSD and the G394 SST,” said Kramer.
“DuraSeal, which is built into a tire, instantly seals punctures of up to 1/4-inch in the repairable area of a tire’s tread. Goodyear’s inclusion of DuraSeal in these new wide-base products was a first for the industry, and we believe it’s a game-changer.”
“The use of wide-base tires for over the road use as a replacement of dual tires is growing, especially in trailer use,” said Rick Brennan, vice president of marketing, Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. “This is due to lower weight and lower rolling resistance. We are seeing a big increase of use as OE on trailers, dual tires still dominate but wide-base use is growing. Initial concerns over durability and down time from a single tire failure have proven to not be an issue. Tire durability is more than adequate and with automatic tire pressure systems now prevalent, downtime is not a reality. As a result many more fleets are looking to reduce fuel costs, making wide-base use attractive.”
Brennan said Kumho has developed wide-base tires for over-the-road use. However, they have not been placed in mass production yet due to the high cost of transporting them overseas. Fewer tires fitting in shipping containers is an issue.
“The New Generation Wide Base Singles (NGWBS) were launched with the Michelin X One tire just over 10 years ago and demand has really taken off over the past three to four years,” said Paul Johnston, business segment manager, Michelin Americas Truck Tires. “This has been driven primarily by the high cost of fuel, the need for improved freight efficiencies, the anticipated impact of regulations and the concern for the environment. The Michelin X One XDA Energy has led the way with regards to meeting each of these demands.”
“We think that the market is trending upward to include more and more wide-base products,” said Gary Hendricks, truck tire sales manager for Toyo Tire USA Corp. “Currently we at Toyo do not present a wide-base offering in our current product line up, however we do believe that this segment is an area of growth for us. We are currently evaluating performance characteristics of our wide-base test products at selected survey fleets nationally.”
“The market continues to show interest in wide-base tires as fleets are looking at every possible way to reduce their cost of operation,” said Rick Phillips, director of commercial sales, Yokohama Tire Corp. “In the right application there are definitely advantages, and if you look at OEM projections they are certainly a product for the future in the transportation industry.”
Phillips said the biggest benefit of wide-base tires is the weight savings, especially for fleets that tend to haul heavy loads in a regional area of service.
He said there is a fuel savings advantage, but when compared to a set of fuel-efficient duals in the same type of application, the actual financial impact at the fuel pump can be minimal.
“This segment will continue to grow,” Phillips predicted. “Right now, there are still a few trade-offs, such as original mileage and retreadability. But as the technology improves the product’s performance and wide-base becomes more widely available, you will see more fleets converting.” ■