October is a wonderful month. The leaves are turning colors north of the Mason-Dixon line and there is a little crispness in the air. There is a football game every Monday, Friday, Saturday and Sunday somewhere. And those who have been shopping lately at any place other than Home Depot or Circuit City probably have noticed that most stores not only have their stock of Halloween goodies on display but now are loading their shelves with Christmas merchandise as well.
But while I think this is one of the best times of the year, it can only mean winter is just around the corner.
So now you've got to think about getting prepared for the onslaught of sleet, ice and snow. You check the tires on your wife's car and decide to put snow tires on this year. You don't want to hear about her getting stuck in your development on a patch of ice like last year when you had that bad ice storm and she couldn't get to work.
You've got the new 424 with ``Grip the Road or Die'' tires so you think you're OK. You check out the windshield wipers and replace the set on your car because you don't want to be caught in the middle of a sub-zero blizzard changing your blades...again.
You also check out the antifreeze and change the oil in both of your cars so the engines are well protected and check the thickness of the brake pads just in case. Good thinking.
Then you check out the snow shovels (marked ``His'' and ``Hers'') and the snow blower to make sure that they are operational and that you have plenty of oil and gas mixture. It sounds like you're ready for winter—or at least a volume discount at your hardware or auto supply store.
Well, your fleet accounts should be doing the same thing to prepare for winter. After all, they are going to be plowing down the nation's highways in hail, sleet, slush, and snow even when you decide it's too miserable to venture out despite all of your preparations.
And this presents another opportunity for you as a commercial tire dealer.
If fleets want their trucks and tractors to operate properly in this harsh weather, it's imperative that their rubber meets the road. It if doesn't, they will find they've got sleds not trucks!
With the hot weather over, it's time to take a really good look at your fleet customers' tires. The summer may have really taken a toll on them since those vehicles were hauling freight like mad in this strong economy.
If their tires weren't as well maintained as they could have been, you'll find all kinds of ugly things now that may result in increased tire sales and services.
First off, you'll probably find tires with tread depths that are pretty low. If you find tires on the steer or drive axles that have less than 7/32nds tread depth, you might want to point these out to the fleet and recommend replacing them with tires that will provide ample tread rubber to cut through snow, channel water and provide the traction needed to stop and accelerate in arctic-like conditions.
If pressures have not been matched on dual tires, you may find a lot of irregular wear. Recommend to the fleet that you move these tires to other positions on the tractor or trailer to run these out or use them as spares depending upon their conditions.
If the fleet has tractors with tandem-axle drives, you'll find that the rear drive-axle tires are much more worn than the forward drive-axle tires. If the wear of the tractor's rear drive tires is more than 4/32nds-inch greater than than that of the forward tires, recommend to the fleet that you rotate the tires from the rear drive-axle to the forward drive-axle.
This will even out their wear. The tires on both of the tandem-drive axles must be closely matched to safeguard the differential and prevent excessive slip, loss of traction and uneven wear.
If the fleet has had to replace some tires this summer, you may find that certain tires have more tread than others. The diameters of the four drive tires on a single-axle drive tractor should be matched within 1/4-inch or less across the axle.
Twin-screw drive axles require that all eight tires be matched so the average diameter on one axle is no more than 1/4-inch different from the average diameter on the other axle.
If tires do not mate within these tolerances, it may be necessary for the fleet to replace the whole set.
Properly mating tires will help prevent spinning on ice with the drive axles fighting each other and will get the freight delivered on time. It also may bring you additional tire sales and service revenue.
If tractors are out of alignment, you may find the shoulders worn off steer tires and even the drive tires, depending upon the alignment condition. Don't forget to check the trailer tires too. Worn shoulders on these tires indicate misalignment as well.
Recommend the fleet have its vehicles aligned as soon as possible to make sure the tires contact the road properly and have the entire tread footprint on the pavement to get the best traction possible.
You also will find tires with cuts, punctures and snags that are just begging to fail on the road at the coldest and nastiest moment imaginable. Advise the fleet of these conditions and recommend that you properly repair these tires as soon as possible.
While you're out there checking tires, make certain the fleet has metal valve caps installed on all valve stems. Their job is to keep dirt, snow and ice from getting into the valve and fouling the valve core, which causes leaks.
Also check to ensure the tires are inflated to their proper pressure. Duals on both tractors and trailers should be matched within 2 psi of each other. This prevents a lot of irregular wear and will help make your product run longer.
Emphasize to the fleet the need to properly maintain tire pressures in the winter months. Remind them that when tire pressures change, tire footprints change as well—and this will affect tire traction.
If you do this fall winterization work properly and thoroughly with your fleet accounts now, you will generate considerable revenue this year and perform the work while the weather is still warm and comfortable.
You don't get paid extra for doing the same work while freezing your butt off. So do it now and prepare for a nice warm hibernation.