Tyre maker, Bridgestone, says it wants to sell its truck fleet customers fewer tyres. That might sound counter-intuitive, but there is logic to it, according to the company’s CV Product and Marketing Manager, Andy Mathias.
The company has recently launched a product known as Total Tyre Care, which aims to manage and maximise tyre life, as well as educate operators about tyre condition and safety.
“Operators who sign up to it should find that the good husbandry it promotes means that their tyres need replacing less frequently,” he said. “And that will save them money.”
Surely that means Bridgestone’s truck tyre volumes will go into a steady decline? Not necessarily, Mathias insists.
“The idea is that more and more fleets will switch from their existing supplier to Bridgestone once they realise how effective Total Tyre Care can be,” he said. “So in that context I’m sure Bridgestone’s sales and market share will grow.”
“It also means existing clients are remaining loyal,” he added. “We’re achieving a 95% contract renewal rate.”
“To implement Total Tyre Care we work through 90 independent dealers with 400 sites countrywide. We’ve also got our own audit team which carries out spot checks to ensure that the policies agreed with the operator are being followed.”
Something else it has developed is a reporting tool which allows fleets to look at tyre performance by depot and by vehicle. If it reveals unusual patterns of tyre consumption then appropriate action can be taken.
Total Tyre Care involves everything from checking pressures regularly and, if necessary, adjusting them to ensure that tyres are not changed early when they’ve still got plenty of life left in them. It also means getting maximum life out of the tyre by regrooving and retreading where possible. Something that fellow tyre maker, Michelin, also promotes.
“Regrooving a tyre can extend its life by around 25%,” said Michelin’s Truck Marketing Director, Chris Smith. It too has developed a comprehensive tyre management package for fleets.
“Ensuring tyres remain healthy should not be ignored and they should always be included in a driver’s daily walk-around check,” he added. Michelin has developed four tyre-related driver’s Certificate of Professional Competence modules, which it runs from its training centre in Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire.
Bridgestone and Michelin are by no means the only truck tyre makers honing their fleet management skills.
Last November saw the launch of Goodyear Proactive Solutions. A pan-European programme, it uses telemetry to take tyre temperature and pressure readings direct from trucks.
The data, which can include tread depths, goes to a central server, is analysed using an algorithm specially developed by Goodyear, and the results can then be sent to the fleet operator so that any action necessary can be taken. Driver behaviour can be monitored too; harsh acceleration and violent cornering are bad news for tyre life.
“What we’re offering fleet managers is a one-stop, user-friendly solution to help them reduce their total cost of operation and improve the uptime, efficiency and sustainability of their fleets,” said Michel Rzonzef, Vice-President of Commercial Business for Goodyear Europe, Middle East and Africa.
Meanwhile, Continental is promoting tyre pressure management as a critical factor in tyre performance.
“Ensuring that tyre pressures are correctly maintained is vitally important,” said Tony Stapleton, Continental’s Commercial Fleet Sales Manager. “The tyres on 20% of fleet vehicles are up to 10% under- or over-inflated, which is bad news for tyre life, fuel economy and – potentially – road safety.”
“Remember that while tyres themselves only account for 5% of a truck’s operating costs they can affect 40% of all the other costs, including fuel usage,” he added.
Continental is employing telematics to keep a real-time eye on the state of health of tyres fitted to trucks. It is in a particularly good position to do so, because it is a major manufacturer of automotive components as well as a tyre maker.
Its onboard ContiPressureCheck system can alert fleet operators, and Continental itself, if a tyre is starting to deflate so that the driver – who may not have noticed – can be instructed to drive the truck somewhere where the problem can be dealt with safely. That might be a motorway service area, for example.
All the driver needs to then do is wait for the tyre fitters to arrive. The truck will not be stranded on a motorway hard shoulder and the deflating tyre will not end up being shredded; and its valuable casing may be salvageable for retreading.
“Effective tyre management is essential given the extent to which tyre prices are going up,” said Bridgestone’s Andy Mathias. “They’re increasing from 10% to 20% across a range of brands thanks to the rising price of steel and natural rubber.”
That’s good news for retreads says Bridgestone’s Retread Development Manager, Terry Salter; especially if they are made in Britain where the impact of weak Sterling isn’t felt as hard as with imports. Bridgestone has its own tyre retreading plant in Bourne, Lincolnshire which has the capacity to make around 80,000 retreads a year.
“A new truck tyre weighs 65kg to 70kg but a retread only requires 20kg of fresh raw material before it can go back into service,” he said. “That’s a big saving.”
It takes 83 litres of oil to make a new tyre as opposed to only 26 litres for a retread.
It also means that retreads can boast solid environmental credentials. CO2 emissions generated by their production are 30% less than those produced when new tyres are manufactured from scratch in a factory.
Bridgestone is by no means the only tyre maker with a UK retreading operation. Although Goodyear closed its plant in Wolverhampton last year, 2016 saw Continental acquire Devon-based independent retreader, Bandvulc.
Independently-owned Vacu-Lug retreads tyres for Pirelli at its plant just outside Grantham, while Michelin makes retreads in Stoke-on-Trent.
Rising tyre prices mean that quality retreads are in a better position to compete effectively with lower-end-of-the-market imports bearing unfamiliar brand-names, Michelin’s Smith believes. “One of our Michelin Remix retreads is 60% of the cost of a new tyre,” he points out.
With the cost of fleet operations showing no signs of reducing, it’s a saving that must be worth having.