Limiting the availability of tire tread designs or model types has traditionally been appealing to fleets. The advantages of having one tire selection each for the steer, drive and trailer axle include minimizing confusion and misapplications, and reducing inventories and tire banks.
There have always been specialized OTR vocational service conditions in which optional or additional tire selections are necessary to solve specific operational problems. For example, deep-tread winter tires with low net-to-gross (“open”) tread designs have allowed trucks to operate without chains on snow-covered roads in Northern or mountainous regions. And special mixed-service tires enable logging trucks to perform double duty on unpaved terrain and high-speed paved highway runs.
With these usage patterns in mind, another industry trend is noteworthy. Contract, or dedicated carrier service, represents an increasing segment of many trucking businesses. They typically have consistent routings and freight types, and are often regionally based.
Specialized equipment configurations can often lower the overall cost of such operations. For example, some fast-food delivery fleets have replaced long wheelbase straight trucks or tandem axle tractor-trailer combinations with single-axle tractors and pup trailers. Advantages include less off-tracking and a smaller turning radius to minimize need for driver expertise.
Tire makers know that certain geographic regions can significantly affect overall tire wear rates, even if the other service conditions, such as loads, speeds, and topography are constant. The primary explanation is a difference in the abrasiveness of road paving aggregate used in the local asphalt and concrete road mixes.
Therefore, standardizing your fleet's tire program could result in added tire costs, depending on the specifics of the equipment and service conditions you encounter. Here are some guidelines for determining whether or not you should consider alternative tire applications for some of your vehicles:
Are certain vehicles reliably dedicated to service conditions different from your norm? Consider speed, load, length of haul, and availability for local servicing.
Is there a significant increase in the frequency and/or severity of steer axle wheel cut for dedicated-service vehicles compared to your norm? This creates extra side scuffing that may make high tread volume metro service tires more cost effective. Also, drive tires with open shoulder designs usually last longer.
If you have any wide spread tandems that must make frequent tight turns in dedicated service, consider tires with narrower treads, possibly rounded shoulders on trailers. Taller tire profiles often outperform low profiles in these conditions.
Trucks operating primarily in hilly terrain, or where road surfaces are especially abrasive, may benefit from special wear-resistant tires. While you may lose a little fuel efficiency, you'll gain longer treadwear.
Vehicles with increases in the number of start/stop cycles compared to your norm may benefit from drive tires with different tread patterns than those used in on-highway service.
While tire standardization remains a noble quest for virtually all fleet operations, these are just some examples of niche applications where tire applications different from your “standard” tires may offer cost saving alternatives.