May 1, 2008
Here’s a blueprint for lowering cost per mile.
by Tim Miller
Unless you want to pick tires for your construction trucks based on “gut feelings,” intuition, or data gathered by your peers, a good recordkeeping system to track tire performance and costs in your fleet is vital to making wise tire decisions. And whether your records are on paper or on high-powered, tire-specific spreadsheets is up to you.
A good recordkeeping system will store all the data you need to determine the actual costs associated with the tires in your fleet. The Technology and Maintenance Council’s (TMC) Recommended Practice, RP 208, serves as an excellent reference and details all the essential parameters to measure in order to accurately analyze tire-related costs.
While most of the initial costs in a tire-tracking program are obvious — new tires, casings and retreads, and repair materials — there are other related costs that must be taken into account. These costs include the labor associated with tire management and repairs, tire replacement costs, and the cost of downtime associated with any tire issues that occur. Warranty credits for new tires and retread and repair warrantable conditions also must be documented and figured into the overall costs of tire-related expenses.
Paper versus computer tracking
There is nothing wrong with keeping paper records of when tires were installed on a vehicle, when they were removed, and associated tire costs. If you manage a handful of vehicles, paper records might work. But as the number of vehicles in a fleet increases, the complexity of keeping records “the old-fashioned way” becomes more difficult.
Monitoring tire depth should be done on a regular basis. Data should be entered into the program when tires are about 25-, 50-, and 75-percent worn, as well as when they have been removed from service.
You should be proficient in a spreadsheet analysis program that will record all the data and make the calculations you need to determine the total costs and, even more importantly, the cost per mile of every tire in your fleet.
If developing a complex spreadsheet is not in your skill set, you may wish to invest in software to help your cause. There are many software packages currently on the market that can help you with this tracking.
Information-based decision making
Good tire-tracking software allows construction companies to document tire-related information (mileage and cost) and calculate cost-per-mile in several ways. Information for each vehicle should be entered, along with mileage, when new tires or retreads are installed. Down the road, costs associated with these tires also should be documented. Tread wear should be measured and entered into the program when tires are 25-percent, 50-percent, and 75-percent worn as well as when they have been removed from service.
Although cost-per-mile can be calculated and shown graphically at any time by brand or tire type, it is best to wait until tires are at least 50-percent worn to draw any preliminary conclusions. Better yet, wait until a significant number of tires are “out-of-service” before using the data to help make major purchase decisions. This gives you a more accurate picture of what’s happening with your costs.
Once tires are out of service, data gathering can continue through scrap tire analysis. This type of data often can be captured, and summarized results can be shown with various charts and graphs.
Knowing why tires are removed and the age and number of retreads you are getting on casings, indicates whether your tires were properly maintained. For example, if tires are full of debris and failing when punctures occur, frequent yard cleanup or tire inspections — or both — might extend tire life in your fleet.
However, here’s a word of caution: Tire-tracking software is not intended to track every tire on every vehicle in a fleet. It is intended to be a tool to aid in the tire decision-making process by providing a way to sample performance from a selected group of vehicles within the fleet.
While tire software packages can track performance, there are other programs that can calculate and predict tires costs based on running different tire combinations. For example, a fleet maintenance manager may want to know whether to run new tires or retreads on drive axles or see how off-highway tires perform versus tires that were designed for on-highway and off-highway use.
A software program can calculate the costs for each scenario as well as the fuel costs. Fuel economy differences among various tire combinations and varying wear rates help determine which tires will deliver the overall lowest cost of operation.
Predicting tire costs through information
Keeping good records and possessing data that predicts tire wear can help lower fleet costs. Knowing which tires are most cost effective on a fleet’s trucks can assist future tire purchase decisions.
What’s more, knowing the wear rates of tires, or how many months the tires last if in severe-duty applications, allows you to anticipate “peaks and valleys” in the replacement tire purchase cycle. This could help with budget planning in the months and years ahead.
You may want to evaluate comparable tire types made by different manufacturers or tire types within the same brand.
A fleet that is composed of various vehicle types, or trucks having different engines, must be considered in tire analysis. You shouldn’t evaluate one type of tire on a group of dump trucks and another type on mixers. The results will not provide a fair evaluation of the tires. When a fair comparison has been completed, you have information that can lead to making the right tire choices for your fleet.
Putting data to work
Tire performance between different company locations or terminals can be tracked in the same way as performance on different fleet vehicles.
Capturing and analyzing tire data can provide insight on what tires perform best and offer the lowest cost per mile.
Tracking software allows fleets to pinpoint problem areas or establish best practices based on outstanding performance in one or more locations. Information is power, and once data are compiled, it can be used to make intelligent tire decisions.
A well-run tire program transcends buying quality tires. Tires should be viewed as a system — tread designs and tread compounds, casing durability, and maintenance practices are all important factors. Tracking them can help determine what works best. When your job is to stay profitable through low cost-per-mile and tires are one of your highest operating costs, it’s imperative to track your numbers. It’s the only way to a solid bottom line.
Tim Miller has been with Goodyear/Veyance Technologies for more than 30 years. He spent eight years as a tire design engineer before taking positions as a technical representative to original equipment customers, and later, as a technical rep to several large commercial tire customers. After five years in commercial tire sales, he returned for a second stint in the commercial tire marketing department as commercial tire marketing communications manager.