The last mile trucking segment is one of the fastest growing segments in the trucking and transportation sectors. In fact, during the last year, the last mile delivery market has exploded. It is estimated that there are 1.5 million last mile delivery vehicles on the road in North America today. This rapidly growing market segment is complex, creating unique challenges for tire management. After all, last mile vehicles have far different needs than Class 6 – 8 trucks.
Last mile delivery refers to the segment of the market that transports a customer’s package from a storage location or logistics center to its final destination. Obviously, this could be more than a single mile, but the term itself stuck for the industry. Last mile delivery began in the business-to-consumer space but, during the COVID-19 shutdowns last mile deliveries to both consumers and businesses increased. And it became a critical component of our transportation infrastructure as getting medical goods and other essential materials became ever more important.
What is Last-Mile Delivery?
There are different last mile applications, so it is important to understand which application suits which truck and tire types. Let’s take a closer look at each one:
- Package/Parcel: Every time you get a small package or parcel to your home (maybe from UPS or FedEx), that is a package or parcel last mile delivery. And it could be going to a home or a commercial building or office. It is the type and size of the package that determines last mile type.
- Large Package/Parcel: If you purchase a large home appliance like a washing machine or dishwasher it will fall under this last mile category. This could also be things like toilets or just about any other large home improvement product.
- Food/Drinks: There is certainly a last mile delivery category for food and drinks, whether they are delivered to a home, restaurant, or restaurant supply depot. This could also include local restaurants or grocery stores that deliver weekly meals or groceries to customers who place those orders online.
- Letter: This category encompasses everything the U.S. postal service does, but it could also include smaller courier services that deliver packages for individuals and small businesses.
When it comes to OEMs, this segment is primarily populated with traditional manufacturers and new electric vehicle (EV) manufacturers. EV OEMs have been getting in on the game because EVs are uniquely suited for last mile delivery applications. Why? Because they run short hauls and often return back to home base quickly.
Let’s talk tires. EV manufacturers ask tire manufactures for more low rolling resistance tires to help extend EV range. New tire sizes are being developed for these new vehicles as well. But how much will it truly impact the industry and last mile services?
Evaluate Your Operational Need from a Last-Mile Perspective
Last mile delivery companies encompass many different trucking company types: They include:
- Large fleets with 100+ commercial motor vehicles
- Small fleets with less than 100 vehicles
- Long-term leasing companies
- Short-term leasing companies
- Fleet maintenance companies
- Commercial motor vehicle rental companies
Within these fleet types there are different priorities. Some fleets may want to focus solely on total cost of ownership as they evaluate tire performance. Others may be more focused on initial acquisition cost. Regardless of where you place your priorities, you need to look for the following factors:
- Products You Can Trust: Last mile delivery fleets want tires with good fuel economy and strong durability. In the end, it is important they have tires with good start/stop traction and curb/scrub resistance since tires very often rub up on curbs and medians.
Reliable Service Network: Last mile delivery fleets deserve consistent service, reliable delivery times and windows and total geographic coverage from a nationwide tire servicing network. Motor carriers should also be able to expect assistance with identifying and preventing tire issues. The vendor service network should help trucking companies maximize uptime and be available 24/7.
- End-to-End Tire Maintenance and Management: Last mile delivery fleets want to maximize their tire investment and reduce tire usage. They want assistance monitoring tire performance and are interested in predictive analytics so they can make smart tire replacement decisions
Tire management companies should also be able to focus on the following:
- Predictive Analysis and Reporting
- Total Geographic Coverage
- 24/7 Support
The up-front initial acquisition cost focused fleet is typically more concerned about having a variety of product options based on cost and performance. These fleets should seek a trusted dealer network with excellent product availability and a dealer who can provide the correct tire recommendations.
Last Mile Vehicle Types and Tire Offerings
Let’s take a closer look at the vehicle types utilized in last mile delivery applications:
- Light-duty commercial motor vehicles (LCV): Class 2b – 3 and weight of 6,000 to 14,000 pounds.
- Medium-duty commercial motor vehicles (MCV): Class 4 – 5 and weight 14,000 to 20,000 pounds.
LCV varieties generally run on 14” to 20” light truck tires. MCV varieties generally run 17.5” to 19.5” tires. Both varieties should use tires that are retreadable. Speaking of retreading, it is very important that last mile delivery companies run effective retreading operations.
We’ve talked about retreading before, but it is even more important for last mile delivery companies because of the type of business they run. Retread to save money, time, and avoid accidents.
Retreading for Last Mile Delivery Companies
It is without a doubt that retreading plays an important role in last mile delivery. Why? Well, first there has been an increased interest in and emphasis on sustainability both at the consumer and corporate level in recent years. Because retread manufacturing uses less petroleum as compared to new tire manufacturing, and because retreading means fewer tire casings end up in landfills, retreaded tires can help businesses meet their corporate sustainability goals while achieving a better total cost of ownership.
It is also important to consider any last mile delivery fleets are involved in other segments of the trucking industry such as regional or long haul as well. In many cases, last mile companies have diversified operations. Retreading is quite common among diversified fleets. Choosing to utilize retreadable tires on last mile delivery vehicles can allow for one tire strategy across the entire fleet. This saves money and lowers overall cost of ownership.
Fleet managers must also help their fleets customize their tire needs based on geography and service standards. They can’t just put one tire on all of their trucks and say it will work no matter where they go. For example, if a fleet has vehicles operating in snowy conditions, they might want to consider an open shoulder drive tire to help improve traction in their area of operation. Fleet managers need to create a tire management program that fits their operation and saves them money over the long run.
Get the Most out of Your Trucking Company’s Tires
Tires are one of the largest expenses for a fleet. And if fleet managers and technicians do not take concrete steps to ensure they take care of their tires, they are going to lose lots of money. But hoe exactly should they do that? Consider the following:
First, create a program that will monitor air pressure on a regular basis. Whether that is doing fleet surveys or having truck drivers regularly check the vehicle’s tire pressure, keeping an eye on the tires saves money. Make sure you also run tires at their optimal air pressure. This way you’ll be able to provide fuel efficiency benefits, tread life benefits and can reduce chances of a catastrophic breakdown.
Next, make sure you visually inspect tires and measure tread depth once per week as a part of the routine maintenance procedure. Look for how the tire is wearing, and whether it is wearing evenly. Look for any chunks or gashes in the sidewall. Spotting and properly addressing these issues, will help reduce the risk of tire failures and costly roadside breakdowns
Finally, analyze information at your disposal to help optimize fuel economy, tread wear, and traction. You can do all this without sacrificing performance. Fleets should not just collect information about the health of their tires. They should also track fuel and mileage over time to help determine which tire is best for their application and performance needs. Given the complexity of last mile delivery, tire selection is challenging. But if you conduct your due diligence, you’ll get it right. Also get help along the way and you’ll be sure to make the right choices in the last mile market.