Tag Archives: SmartWay

The Latest News On Truck Tire Treads

Consider that 20 years ago we were using tires that today wouldn’t come close to making the grade. The stark evolution in trucking has been nothing short of amazing.

In the 90s, tread designs had stagnated. There were basically two designs – rib or block. Today, tread designs are far more complex and sophisticated. You can even order them tailor-made for whatever application or wheel position your work requires.

Tread geometry has also changed dramatically in the past 20 years. The available size and weight variation among tire types have also become more specific and developed. Blading, as one example, has evolved to a point where traction is the focus not just when the tire is new, but throughout its life.

New manufacturing processes have allowed rapid advancement in siping and low rolling resistance design. Casings are far more retreadable and the savings across a tire’s lifecycle have expanded beyond where they were even in recent years.

One of the biggest improvements comes in the area of rubber compounding. Rubber chemistry has become so advanced that OEMs can now blend compounds together to create near-perfectly optimized tire designs.

“Dual Energy” is another term used to describe certain compounds that provide superior removal mileage. The bottom layers allow standard tread to run cool, which minimizes the external casing temperatures. All of this adds up to longer casing life. So what’s next?

Fuel Efficiency

Ask anyone in the long-haul sector and they will tell you fuel efficiency is the number one agenda item. Often times the measure of a low rolling resistance tire’s value is taken in how well the tire optimizes fuel savings.

Since both the Environmental Protection Agency’s SmartWay tire system and OEMs both use a rolling resistance index to measure tire performance, standards can be judged across the board (even though those numbers are not made publicly available).

So what can you, as an intrepid fleet manager, do to ensure you’re using the right tires for the job? Perhaps you should begin by evaluating what’s on the market.

The Value of Retreads

Retreads provide affordable and dependable performance over their lifetime. You can expect a smooth and continuous shoulder to ensure uniform wear across the surface. Advanced compounds also contribute to long life and wear.

Circumferential grooves and diagonal tread blocks help to evacuate water and promote traction on either wet or dry surfaces. So when you are looking for a healthy mixture of performance and technology, give retreads a look.

Hybrid Tires

The “hybrid” tire market remains squarely aimed at long-haul and regional operations. These tires are designed with five-rib patterns and effectively equalize pressure across the tire’s footprint. Some models even come with specialized bumpers to prevent the trapping of rocks and stones.

In order to address the inherent conflict between fuel efficiency and removal mileage, casings are now engineered to exacting specifications. New designs minimize heat build-up and rolling resistance without sacrificing fuel economy.

Advanced Designs

As fuel economy becomes the main focus, advances tire designs are increasingly finding their way into the market. New designs include a more robust, wider shoulder rib design specifically designed to minimize curb impact resistance.

Other models provide a stiffer tread and deliver on higher mileage without sacrificing on their low rolling resistance quotient. Biting sipes also help with snow traction. After all, the more edges you that are in contact with the road, the more traction you have.

Look for other advanced applications, from optimized blade geometry to precise siping sequences designed to enhance grip in wet conditions. Deeper tread depths also deliver on better fuel efficiency.

No matter the application, new tire designs are effectively meeting the challenge of improved performance and enhanced fuel efficiency. No matter what your need, always look for a proper measure of durability that doesn’t impact performance.

Are Cheap Trucking Tires Worth The Cost?

Yup. We’re talking about tires again. Why? Because they’re important. And with the U.S. Environmental Agency’s recent SmartWay list expansion, we are about to experience a flood of cheap tires on the market.

Consider this: Last year there were 325 steer, drive, and all-position tires on the EPA’s list. Now, in the last twelve months alone, 287 tires were added to the list.

The verified list now stands at 612 tires, which is an 88 percent increase over 2014. In addition, the number of tire brands has swelled from 93 to 193 – a staggering jump. One must ask, where are these tires coming from, and how are they affecting the current market?

Made in China

As the data proves, a large majority of these tires are coming in from China. And while they may offer a broader selection, should we be standing up and cheering about it?

The fact is, retreaders are nervous. Fleets are also nervous because the pull of a cost-saving option could result in safety problems. Although the prices of some of these tires are too low to discard, it’s important to ask yourself what you’re not getting for your money.

Many of the new entrants on the list can’t even be found on a Google search. Some that can be found are only available on E-Bay, and even then only from container lots, paid in advance of shipping.

That being said, it’s important to note that not all Chinese-made tires are bad options. Several Chinese manufacturers have been operating in the North American market for some time, and they know what it takes to stay competitive here.

Learning the Market

A lot of Chinese manufacturers have done their research. They know that North American fleets will not be returning customers if they have repeated bad experiences with a tire. If they want to rake in American dollars, they know they need to increase the quality of their product.

Familiar names like Sailun, Hercules, and Roadmaster are all manufactured in China, yet they are commonly found in fleet yards nationwide. The difference is in cost.

Even the aforementioned brands will come in at a price point higher than the newer, cheapest options on the SmartWay list. Some of them, such as DoubleCoin, are solid Tier 3 tires trying to get up to Tier 2.

What $150 Gets You

So, let’s say you are considering buying one of the cheaper, $150 tire models. What are you (or aren’t you) getting for your money? In many cases, $150 tires only make sense when $150 is all you have to spend on a tire.

Keep in mind that even if a tire is on the SmartWay list, it may still be shipped in without a DOT code, which makes them illegal to sell in the U.S. The tire warranties are also questionable. Fleets must also look at cost-per-mile. Often, the cheapest option in the short term is not cost effective in the long term.

Also consider that many cheap, imported tires cannot be retreaded. So once they’re done, they’re done. But this doesn’t mean a flood of imports doesn’t have retreaders looking over their shoulder.

Should Retreaders Worry?

It’s hard enough for retreaders to convince fleets to retread their tires. It might get even harder once fleets realize they can buy a brand-new tire for the same price as a retread.

While this shouldn’t be as much of a problem for retreaders working with big, Top 100 fleets, it’s those working with smaller fleets that might have to worry. Cost-saving options are much more appealing to fleets who don’t have a huge mound of cash and credit backing them, as many of the largest fleets do.

Although a flood of cheap imported tires killed the passenger car industry, don’t expect them to take too much of a bite out of commercial retreading interests, mainly because the largest, most profitable fleets will never use cheap tires and will continue to retread.

SmartWay or the Highway

So you may be wondering how these potentially illegal tires got on the SmartWay list. Surprisingly, SmartWay does not do its own testing, and instead relies on the word of the manufacturers.

It’s actually quite easy to get on the SmartWay list. As long as a manufacturer can prove their tire saves at least 3 percent or more on fuel, it’s in.

Could this flood of cheap tires on the SmartWay list result in higher incident numbers down the road? Only time will tell.