NASHVILLE, Tenn.—Fleets hauling freight today are less tolerant of flat tires than they were several years ago. Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., like the other major tire makers, recently established a national roadside emergency program, "National Preferred," to enable small- and medium-sized fleets to receive service when they experience breakdowns.
Currently, BFS has 241 fleet customers enrolled in National Preferred, said Rick Skinner, director of commercial tire marketing for Bridgestone/Firestone Truck Tire Co.
Under National Preferred, BFS dealers can sign up small fleets so they can receive a national account-type program for road service, according to Chris Tolbert, commercial sales manager for Canton, Ohio-based Ziegler Tire & Supply Co., which operates 18 retail and commercial locations in Ohio and Michigan. Ziegler Tire is a program member.
``Downtime is very critical today. ``Programs like this help,'' Mr. Tolbert said. ``Some of it is perceived—just knowing that (fleets) have a program, which maybe they only need once a year....''
``It's another tool we have available to provide service to our customers,'' said Jack Presto, manager of Stockton, Calif.-based Wilson Way Tire Inc., which joined the program last December.
The only requirements for BFS dealers to join National Preferred are that they operate service trucks and offer 24-hour emergency road service, Mr. Tolbert said.
One of National Preferred's benefits is that when a flat tire occurs, the driver can call a dispatcher, who then looks up the nearest BFS dealers on the company's Web site—www.trucktires.com—and refers the driver to that location.
Mr. Tolbert said he likes National Preferred better than the program it replaced, Rescue Response, because a fleet can find standardized pricing nationwide. BFS handles all the billing electronically.
Since everything is done through BFS, ``from a billing standpoint, from a pricing standpoint, it's more consistent,'' he added.
Mr. Presto believes the pricing aspect is the most attractive part to fleets because it helps prevent a customer from ``having someone with an open check book charging them whatever they want.''
Mr. Tolbert recommends National Preferred to dealers, especially since fleets today won't tolerate a flat tire and down time.
``There is nothing worse than being stuck somewhere in the U.S. at two in the morning, not knowing what to do, and buying from someplace that's charging $1,000 for something, and you gotta pay cash or a compensation check,'' Mr. Tolbert said.