Tires account for a big chunk of fleet costs, and effectively managing tires can help fleet operations control these costs. Tire technology has come a long way, and they promise not only to help in reducing fleet costs, but also with sustainability goals. From tire management software to new materials, here are just some of the latest innovations in the tire industry.
Airless Tires for Off-Road Vehicles
Michelin is always working on new technologies, and one development for government fleets is the Tweel airless radial tire. Released several years ago but in development for more than 20 years, Tweel tires are designed for off-highway applications, including for small construction equipment, landscaping equipment, utility vehicles, and golf carts.
The Tweel is a single unit, replacing the current tire and wheel assembly. It’s bolted on and there’s no air pressure to maintain.
Because the tire is airless, fleet operations can reduce downtime, increase tire life, and reduce tire maintenance, according to Justin MacLanders, global account manager (OE DEFENSE) with Michelin. The Tweel tires often last the life of the vehicle; for skid steers, where tires don’t last the full equipment lifecycle, they can be retreaded at 30-40% the cost of new tires, he added.
While the Tweel has been available a few years, many government fleet professionals aren’t aware of it because it doesn’t fall in the general “tire” category. Fleet professionals must know where to look to purchase them, said Alvin Carr, government account manager at Michelin.
And although the airless tires are only available for off-road vehicles for now, Michelin plans to bring an on-road version to the market, potentially by 2024. In addition, a partnership with General Motors has Michelin providing airless tires for the Chevrolet Bolt starting in 2026.
Reducing Petroleum Oil in Tires
For fleet managers looking to improve sustainability, Goodyear allows them to do so with tires. Select tires now use a soybean oil compound that provides both sustainability and performance benefits.
When oil and gas prices were high several years ago, the company began looking into alternatives to petroleum-based oil. It turned to soybean oil, which is domestic; abundant, with surplus supplies even after food applications; and is one of the lowest environmental impact raw materials available, according to Bob Woloszynek, chief engineer of global material development for Goodyear.
About 8% of a typical tire’s weight is oil; using soybean oil reduces the use of petroleum-based oil by replacing it with a renewable oil. It can also increase manufacturing efficiencies and improves tire flexibility at low temperatures, helping the rubber remain pliable in cold weather.
That’s why Goodyear has several soybean-oil-based tires that have improved winter performance. Its first product, the Assurance WeatherReady passenger tire, launched in 2017; it’s an all-season tire that can work just as well in snow, with a three-peak mountain snowflake stamping. With 100% soybean oil in its tread compound, the tire uses 60% less petroleum oil than its predecessor.
For police fleets, the Eagle Enforcer All Weather pursuit tire is ideal for northern areas of the U.S. that get snow for year-round use. The tire offers the usual pursuit tire features, including high speed rating, higher load rating, and peak handling. It’s available for all popular pursuit vehicle models and uses 45% less petroleum-based oil compared to its predecessor.
New York City, which is on a big push for sustainability, has already been transitioning its police fleet vehicles to these soybean-based tires, both for pursuit and non-pursuit vehicles. In 2020, it acquired 1,000 Assurance WeatherReady tires for six agencies — more than half went to the police department.
Goodyear has two additional light-duty tire offerings available, and the development team is working on heavy-duty truck tires with soybean oil. Its goal is to replace all petroleum-based oils with sustainable oils by 2040.
Tracking Tire Tread Depth
It’s not just tires themselves that have evolved. New technology related to tire data also claims to improve tire management, reducing technician time and overall costs.
Tyrata, a company that makes tire tread depth monitoring equipment and provides actionable tire data analytics, can determine your tread depth as often as you want, without needing to have a technician around to take measurements. The tire wear data is sent to a database, allowing fleet and maintenance managers to track real-time tread depth.
“The ability to automate and continuously monitor tires’ tread depth enables fleets for the first time to effectively and economically optimize tire use and reduce tire maintenance expense without compromising tire safety,” said Luka Lojk, VP of sales and marketing for the company.
Another plus? It’s good for the environment. Using tires longer reduces need for new tires, Lojk said. Replacing tires at the right time can allow a fleet operation to recap tires more times because the tire casing is likely to be undamaged. For fleets looking to be more environmentally friendly, that’s something to consider.
The system is ideally placed at a central location where similar vehicles visit often, like a bus depot or fueling station. A daily reading (done when the driver drives over the system) allows the software to chart the data, letting the maintenance manager know, in advance, the ideal time to replace or recap a tire.
One of Tyrata’s customers, the transit agency GoDurham, was able to extend its average tire use by 12% — increasing average tread use from 9.9 mm to 11.2 mm — without compromising safety. The data showed that with daily tire tread monitoring, GoDurham was able to confidently use tires longer. Reducing tire purchases for its 60-bus fleet and eliminating manual tire measurements should lead to an estimated net annual savings of $60,000, not to mention a 21,000-kg reduction of carbon emissions, according to data provided by Tyrata.
More on the tire software front — Revvo Technologies’ tire monitoring system continually connects tire data to a central database, including tire pressure, tread depth, and temperature.
Facundo Tassara, Revvo’s head of customer success and a former government fleet manager, recommends the system for vehicles and applications where there is a “huge tire expense.” Solid waste trucks are an example of where fleet operations can save — these tires are prone to punctures since they often drive over concrete floors at transfer stations and debris at landfills.
Another recommended application is in school buses, where safety is paramount.
Like with the Tyrata system, Tassara said knowing tire pressure will allow maintenance managers to keep tires in use longer; running on a low-pressure tire damages the casing, making the tire ineligible for retreading.
You might think you don’t need that much tire data, but Tassara said all this data leads to savings. Fleets can repair tires instead of replacing them; retread more times; and bypass tire measurements and input the information directly into the fleet management system when a vehicle gets serviced.
The city of Lakeland, Florida, fleet piloted the technology for 30 days. In that time, a tire pressure alert allowed the fleet to avoid a road call. In another instance, a tire pressure alert allowed the fleet team to direct the truck driver to a parking lot along its route to meet with a technician, who completed the repair, taking the vehicle off the road for less than an hour. Lakeland has since decided to roll out a full deployment on its solid waste trucks.
In another example with the city of Orlando solid waste fleet, the city was able to increase its retreads by 188 tires in six months, resulting in a cost avoidance of $71,000 in annualized spending. Real-time tracking also meant better tire management; over six months, the number of tire alerts for its waste fleet decreased by 73%.
Editor's Note: This article was originally published in the March 2022 print issue of Government Fleet and has been edited for continued relevance and accuracy as of August 2023.