Making tires a priority

Oct. 13, 2014
Maintenance programs can’t be an afterthought

Efficiency experts are obsessed with the concept of restructuring. It doesn’t matter the subject, simply because they believe there is always a better way.  They are convinced that if you eliminate a position and divide the responsibilities between other positions, then the result will be a more effective operation.

I’ve seen it happen countless times over the past few years where one individual is responsible for managing the tire program and then that person is gone. The good news, bad news is that the lucky person who kept his or her job then had to find a way to absorb the additional work and maintain the overall effectiveness of the program with no experience.

While everything else on the vehicle has become more reliant on computers and electronics, the service and maintenance requirements for tires haven’t changed much, if at all. The 10-hole disc wheel with a tubeless low-profile 22.5-in. tire that I changed for the first time 30 years ago is basically demounted, mounted and inflated the same way today. In fact, the biggest difference between now and then is the method of installing it on the axle because torque wrenches are finally replacing the good and tight process associated with impact wrenches. That’s progress.

But managing a tire program at the fleet level is a lot more complicated than most people would think. While some fleets are almost exclusively linked to a single manufacturer, others are constantly testing products from a wide range of tire and retread companies in order to find the best performance and cost per mile. Regardless, someone needs to audit the single-manufacturer approach to make sure it is delivering what is promised and the multiple-manufacturer approach to ensure the data that is being reported is accurate.

Then there are the vendors to worry about. The major tire companies have all created national service networks so they can offer some degree of consistency from one location to the next. In most instances, they have company-owned stores where they maintain total control and independently owned companies where the level of control is limited to some degree. And while one may think the company-owned stores would be the best option, that isn’t always the case.

Like any organization with multiple locations, there are good ones and ones that are marginal. On the other hand, some of the independent dealers are incredibly organized and capable of delivering a consistently high level of service while others are not. Being part of a service network is not a guarantee of success, but it’s a step in the right direction, albeit one that still requires regular oversight.

It’s also important that tire policies for each fleet are created for the right reasons. I still see far too many virgin casings that are rejected because the customer refused a section repair and steer tires that are scrapped because a simple puncture is outside the repair parameters.

From the maintenance perspective, tires must be a top priority because they are only going to get more expensive as raw material and energy costs continue to increase. Making them an afterthought and turning the tire program over to a person with no tire experience is a recipe for disaster simply because that will be totally dependent on the expertise and opinions of others. And if there is a better and more economical way to manage tires and retreads, they won’t even know where to look.

Kevin Rohlwing can be reached at [email protected]

About the Author

Kevin Rohlwing

Kevin Rohlwing is the SVP of training for the Tire Industry Association. He has more than 40 years of experience in the tire industry and has created programs to help train more than 180,000 technicians.

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