Tires are expensive — in fact, they are a top maintenance expense for beverage fleets. Anything that can be done to extend tire life can provide significant savings.
Maximizing tire value begins with proper tire selection. That comes from an awareness of the operating situations and challenges tires face in specific applications. There also needs to be an understanding that tires are designed for specific categories of operation.
Frequent starting, stopping, turning and backing are conditions that beverage fleets endure every day on local routes, combined with occasional highway driving, says Tim Miller, spokesman for Goodyear. This type of driving can cause wear and tear on tires, especially in the sidewall area.
He notes that Goodyear’s recently introduced steer and all-position G661 HSA “is ideal for beverage trucks” because the tire features enhanced tread designs, along with construction characteristics that help resist cuts, punctures and sidewall damage.
Tires in regional operations face movements and stresses that can take a significant toll if the tire is not specifically designed for these applications, adds Chris Tolbert, business segment manager, Michelin Americas Truck Tires.
He says Michelin specifically engineers tires to hold up to the rigors and demands of the regional application, like the Michelin XZE2 tire.
Both Miller and Tolbert highlight several key factors to consider when looking at tires for beverage vehicles:
- Tread area — The patterned portion on the surface of a tire that comes in contact with the ground. It is here where the tire faces significant scrubbing forces whenever the vehicle makes a turn, stop or start.
- Sidewall — The part of the tire that bridges between the tread and bead, which is the section of the tire that contacts the wheel rim.
- Retreading — A remanufacturing process designed to extend the useful service life of a tire.
It is also important to make sure that trucks are spec’d with the proper Ackermann, Miller says. Ackerman is the term used to describe steering geometry that causes the inside front wheel to turn “tighter” than the outside front wheel.
The Ackermann is dependent on the wheelbase of the vehicle, he says. Improper Ackermann will wear steer tires very quickly.
Once a fleet has settled on the appropriate tires for its vehicles, it is paramount that it has a formal tire management program and policy, say Miller and Tolbert. Tire management helps reduce overall operating costs.
“A tire pressure maintenance component is the first thing fleets must have in place when developing a tire management program,” says Doug Jones, customer engineering support manager, Michelin Americas Truck Tires.
Checks of tire inflation pressure need to be done regularly — “monthly is good, weekly is better,” Miller notes — and always with properly calibrated air pressure gauges.
For fleets that don’t have the time or resources to set up and run a tire maintenance program, it can be outsourced to tire dealers or manufacturers and others.
If a fleet does decide to set up its own program, Jones says total tire management programs should include information and procedures for:
- Purchasing the best tires for particular applications.
- Tracking the tires in order to determine and monitor cost per mile.
- Establishing how tires will be brought into a program. A fleet needs to determine whether it will buy steer tires, run them down to a certain pull point and then retread them to replace them in the drive position, or it will buy steer tires and drives and retread them when they reach the determined pull point. 
- Determining when tires should be inspected and pressures checked.
- Appointing someone to check the pressures and inspect tires.
- Establishing a routine for tire rotation and vehicle alignment.
- Instituting a scrap tire analysis program wherein every tire that comes out of service is examined to determine why it was removed from service.
Miller advises beverage fleets to test multiple brands and types of tires within brands to be assured they are running the best tires for their fleet. “Best,” he says, “should mean the tires that provide the lowest cost per mile — from new through multiple retreads, not just a low initial cost.” BI