Unless a fleet wants to pick tires based on gut feelings, intuition, or data gathered by other fleets, a record-keeping system to track tire performance and costs is vital to making wise tire decisions. A good record-keeping system, whether on paper or on computer software, is one that will store all the data needed to determine the actual costs associated with a fleet's tires.

While most of the initial costs in a tire-tracking program are obvious-new tires, casings and retreads, and repair materials — other related costs must be accounted for, says Tim Miller, Goodyear's commercial tire marketing communications manager. Those costs include labor related to tire management and repairs, tire replacement costs, the cost of downtime associated with tire issues that occur, and warranty credits for new tires, and retread and repair warrantable conditions.

“TMC (Technology and Maintenance Council) has a great Recommended Practice, RP 208, which details all the essential parameters to measure in order to accurately analyze tire related costs,” Miller says. “It's something we highly recommend fleets follow.”

TMC's Recommended Practices Manual can be purchased via the web at:

http://www.truckline.com/store/product.asp?id=146&cat=)

For fleets that manage a handful of vehicles, there is nothing wrong with keeping paper records of tire costs, says Miller. But as the number of vehicles in a fleet increases, the complexity of keeping records becomes more difficult. “Someone needs to be proficient in spreadsheet analysis in order to record all the data and make the calculations needed to determine the total costs and, even more important, the cost per mile of every tire in the fleet.”

An easier way is to invest in software programs, he says, and several tire-specific software packages are available that can aid in generating better information. By way of example, Goodyear has its TVTRACK and TireValuCalc programs.

Tire cpm

With TVTRACK, information is entered for each vehicle, with mileage recorded when new tires, or retreads, are installed. Costs associated with these tires also are documented, along with tread wear, which is measured and entered into the program when tires are 25 percent, 50 percent, and 75 percent worn, and when they are removed from service. Cost-per-mile (cpm) can be calculated and shown graphically at any time by brand or tire type.

Millers says it is best to wait until tires are at least 50 percent worn to draw any preliminary cost-per-mile conclusions. “Better yet, wait until a significant number of tires are out-of-service. This gives a more accurate picture of what's happening with the costs.”

After tires are out of service, Miller suggests that data gathering continue through scrap tire analysis. This type of data can be captured by TVTRACK, 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 the tires were properly maintained,” he says. “For example, if tires are full of debris and failing when punctures occur, frequent yard clean-up, tire inspections, or both, might extend tire life in a fleet.”

According to Miller, tire-tracking software is not intended to track every tire on every vehicle in a fleet. “It is meant 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.”

Tire comparisons

Goodyear's TireValuCalc software tool uses data gathered by TVTRACK or other sources to calculate total costs associated with running different tire combinations.

Suppose a fleet maintenance manager wants to know whether to run new tires or retreads on drive axles, says Miller. TireValuCalc calculates the costs for each scenario, as well as 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.”

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 in the fleet and forecasting new vehicle purchase cycles allows a fleet to anticipate peaks and valleys in the replacement tire purchase cycle,” Miller says. “This could help with budget planning in the months and years ahead.”

Operational differences

Another consideration in tire analysis is the type of vehicles and engines used in a fleet. Vehicles may require different tires for the various axles, depending on the application — short-wheelbase tractors making local deliveries and long-wheelbase tractors in long-haul service.

“How would a fleet know this, if it doesn't have data to evaluate?” Miller asks. “Tracking software allows a fleet to evaluate tire performance of different sets of vehicles in order to help make intelligent tire choices based on facts, not gut feelings.”

Tire performance between different company locations or terminals can be tracked in the same way as performance on different fleet vehicles. With tracking software, a fleet is able to pinpoint problem areas or establish best practices based on outstanding performance in one or more locations.

“Information is power,” says Miller, “and once a fleet has data compiled, it can put it to work to make intelligent tire decisions.” This can help a company's bottom line because tires are a fleet's second highest operating cost.

“Our belief is that a well-run tire program transcends buying quality tires. Tires should be viewed as a system. Tread and compounding, the casing, maintenance practices, and tracking all determine what works best.”