With 14 million vehicles sold in the United States in 2020, the health of the tire market is critical to the fleet transportation economy. The value of the replacement tire market alone was $43 billion USD in 2019.
Tires are one of the largest expenses for fleets today, and the trend seems to be rising across the globe. According to Tire Business, increases in operational and supply chains, transportation, labor, and raw materials are all contributing to these market conditions.
The US relies heavily on tire imports from other countries to keep vehicles on the road. Japanese corporation Bridgestone was the largest global tire manufacturer in 2020, followed by French manufacturer Michelin. In the US, Goodyear and Cooper Tire are among the largest, according to Statistica.
Tire costs have risen by 10 to 15 percent or more over the past year. Everything from a global pandemic to inflation has led to these steadily rising prices, and with the Russian-Ukrainian conflict, the cost of crude oil – the key ingredient in tire production – has risen dramatically.
When you add in rising costs of ocean freight for Japanese, Chinese, and French imports, the problem is compounded. One thing is certain: The price of tires will not be decreasing any time soon. As a fleet owner or manager, what can you do to withstand the added expense of your fleet’s tires?
Take control of your fleet tire stock with these six important steps
Step 1: Invest in quality truck tires for your fleet now
Fleet managers understand that prices are going up before they are coming down. Investing in tires today will lessen the impact of rising tire prices over the coming year. Not only that, with tires in your inventory, you’ll be better able to prepare for emergencies.
As you build your tire inventory, keep in mind the value associated with each tire brand, including the built-in technology, the warranty, the extent of the product line, the availability, and the national dealer network.
Step 2: Coordinate fleet tire stock with your dealer
You cannot assume a dealer will have the tires your fleet needs. Coordinating with the dealer is crucial. Let them know that you need an inventory of certain tires. Dealers can usually find good alternatives if they cannot locate the exact tire you want.
In some cases, tires become nonexistent, and fleet managers have to change trucks to align with the inventory available. This may seem extreme, but in today’s volatile tire environment, it is a reality. Look for dealers who will keep you well-supplied with many options.
Step 3: Join a large network of truck tire dealers for deep discounts
Fleet management specialists like WEX offer substantial tire discounts on several quality brands and can even locate alternatives if the exact tire you’re looking for is not available. Discounts usually range from $40 to $100 or more USD per tire, depending on the brand. That adds up to huge savings annually for any size fleet.
WEX discounts are offered nationwide at dealerships in the network. By helping manage your inventory, WEX is often an insurance program to help you procure the tires you need to keep your vehicles running. Partnering with a company like WEX can help you stay well-prepared even under the most challenging market conditions.
According to WEX tire specialist Shawn Galliett, special fleet pricing can significantly reduce your overall tire spend. For example, discounts can provide an average savings of $960 (or higher) USD per vehicle per year depending on the size of the fleet. This is based on replacing 12 tires annually per truck.
Step 4: Keep up regular maintenance on your fleet of vehicles
Fleet owners and managers understand that regular maintenance on all vehicle equipment is essential for saving on the overall life and costs of maintaining their fleet. From keeping fleet tires properly inflated and monitoring tread wear to regular tire rotations, balance and alignment, the importance of these regular checks cannot be overstated.
Step 5: Purchase tires for your fleet with integrated electronics
Most manufacturers today offer integrated electronics in the tire. Bridgestone, for example, partnered with Microsoft to develop the first real-time Tire Damage Monitoring System. This novel system increases the life of tires and reduces accidents by alerting drivers of road hazards. Additionally, the system monitors tire pressure.
Sensors embedded in the rubber can measure everything from tire pressure and tread depth to temperature changes in the tire and the road. Tire monitoring technology is developing steadily, promising to decrease wear and tear, and increase overall fuel efficiency.
Step 6: Watch for telematics updates for your fleet vehicles
Collecting data in real time helps companies better track the overall day-to-day efficiency of their fleet. Nowadays, many fleets have access to technology that helps diagnose and forewarn about potential failures. Things like under- or over-inflated tires, low treads, and slow leaks can cause unnecessary wear and tear, significantly shortening the life of tires.
A common mistake is mounting the wrong tire for the truck, causing poor performance and potential road accidents. These maintenance problems can cause unnecessary risk and downtime, costing your fleet business money. With digital tools available today, like WEX Telematics, your entire fleet can get the most out of your tire stock by regularly checking diagnostics on all of your vehicles.
With the ability to automatically capture your truck’s data, you have much more control over your fleet’s performance and savings. When your diagnostics pick up things like uneven or accelerated tire wear or tire failures, they can help pinpoint the root of the problem; which may be something mechanical such as suspension or alignment problems.
A telematics program can check diagnostics to help you ensure tires are at optimal inflation levels, are rotated regularly, and are aligned. By collecting data over time, a tire maintenance program provides insights into why some truck tires have more or accelerated wear and tear over others.
The ability to examine overall fleet data over time will give you the tools to begin predicting maintenance issues before they’re actually required, reducing your overall tire spend while anticipating future needs.
And don’t forget the importance of fleet vehicle safety.
While you’re saving on expenses and optimizing fleet operations, you’re also monitoring the safety of your fleet on an ongoing basis. An added benefit: The fewer accidents and delays on the road, the more you can maximize your profits and reinvest in your company.
The ability to properly manage the tire stock for your fleet of commercial trucks can save you thousands of dollars each year. The WEX Edge savings network, for instance, offers exclusive discounts on tires and all things that keep your fleet business moving with ease – including fuel, hotels, wireless services, and more. When you're managing a business and its budget, every dollar matters.
Fleet Equipment Magazine