To get a better grip of how a flat tire affects a fleet’s productivity and profitability, Fleet Financials, a sister publication of Modern Tire Dealer, conducted its first-ever flat tire survey with fleet managers.
Of the survey respondents, the average fleet size was 112 vehicles, and the approximate number of flat tires per year was 97.
As for estimated costs, the average cost of driver downtime was $91.32, the estimated amount of vehicle downtime per flat was $117, and the overall cost of a tire change was $130.10.
Taken together the average cost of a flat tire was about $338.42. This result was then multiplied by the average number of flat tires fleets face.
Fleet Financials then went back to some of the survey participants to better understand the numbers.
Jeb Lopez, owner of Wheelz Up LLC, an auto parts delivery service in metro District of Columbia, said his fleet consists of 100 vehicles, with 98 full-size cargo vans and two box trucks.
He said his estimated cost of driver downtime was $50, and $150 for vehicle downtime. He found the estimated numbers by factoring the hourly wage of his fleet drivers, hourly cost of vehicle downtime, and the cost of fuel and other miscellaneous factors.
“If the driver is 30 minutes or more away from our headquarters, our fleet response team takes a minimum of 45 minutes to get dispatched and at the location. Then it may take another 20 minutes minimum to fix the tire or if it’s major, we have to replace/swap the tire and that could total another 30 minutes,” he said.
Raymond Croteau, an assistant director of transportation with GLSS, a social service provider that assists the elderly in the greater Boston area, echoed Lopez’ methodology when it came to coming up with his answers.
He found his vehicle downtime average based on the average price it costs to tow vehicles, which he said can range from $50 to $150.
“What I basically did is, I kind of used the analogy that when a driver is down, that’s two hours of his time, plus I had to send another driver to do the call, or pick up passenger on the vehicle,” said Croteau.
Hazards on the Road
Lopez attributed his flat tire woes to a multitude of issues.
He said his company delivers within a 60-mile radius, meaning that his vehicles are subject to varying road conditions. Road construction has been a prominent issue for his fleet’s tires, due to the abundance of debris. Weather and seasonal elements also have a negative impact.
Croteau also mentioned debris as one of the main reasons for flat tires in his fleet, which is the result of construction and weather.
Croteau’s fleet of 300 vehicles, which consists of 220 vans and 80 cars, sometimes sustains tire damage from the debris that comes during spring rain when water pushes debris out of the gutters and into the streets.
Croteau also said winter was an important season to consider when factoring tire conditions.
“We have winter here. Last year was actually not a bad winter for snow, but it was a bad year in the effect that it went below and above freezing, which caused a lot more potholes, frost heaves and all the stuff we experience,” said Croteau.
He mentioned that preparation for winter begins as early as September, since it’s not uncommon for snow to be on the ground during October.
Conversely, heat also poses an issue for tires, which was noted by Art Meyer, the procurement, fleet equipment manager for NPL Construction, which is based out of Garland, Texas.
Meyer said his company used to utilize retreaded tires, but it abandoned the practice because the tires would come apart in the summer heat. Meyer also attributed improper tire pressure and running into construction material, such as rebar or concrete, was common due to his company’s line of work.
Finding a Solution
Lopez said Wheelz Up drivers are required to check their tires before and after driving a vehicle, as well as regularly checking the air pressure.
He also said that Wheelz Up replaces tires when there is 4/32 of an inch of tread depth remaining.
Croteau said he uses proactive methodology when it comes to finding tires that work best for his fleet.
“The big thing is to find a tire that holds up to the area that we live in and the challenges that we face. You’re always trying to analyze your tires and find out what’s the best way to reduce the downtime,” he said. “We research and test by changing tire company brands, we research with types of tread also, since different types of tread work better than others, especially in the winter and rain weather. You’re always looking at it; you’re always trying to analyze what’s going on to find a solution and reanalyze to see if your solution made anything better or worse.”
Croteau mentioned trying to keep within costs and budgets for his fleet while also attempting to find a quality tire for his vehicles as a major difficulty. He suggested that finding a way to compare data with other fleets in regards to handling his budget and tire finances would greatly benefit his fleet.
“I think that’s a struggle that most people see. We’re always doing analysis amongst ourselves, or amongst our own fleet, and don’t have or don’t know of a place to work with others who have already done this or are experiencing these things,” he said.