This is the time of year consumers begin thinking about winter tires.
However, commercial trucks and their operations are radically different from cars, SUVs and pickups driven by consumers to get to work, the grocery store, the soccer field and the occasional trip over the river and through the woods to grandmother's house.
Since trucks are traveling thousands of miles a year generating revenue, they are not going to stop to have their tires replaced with snow tires every winter and changed out again in the spring. That's just too much labor and lost productivity, and it isn't necessary.
Although most trucks don't use special tires for the winter, they do, however, have special needs when it comes to selecting tread patterns. Most fleets rely on their commercial tire dealers for information about the best tires for them to use and the technological advances made in tires.
So it's up to you to be the fleet's tire consultant. And as a consultant, it is usually helpful if you know what you're talking about.
So how do you go about recommending the proper tires for a customer's fleet of trucks that will maximize tire service life and minimize tire cost per mile?
Always start by determining what the vehicle is going to be doing. The characteristics for good performing tires used in on-off road applications or even in urban operations are much different than those used on long-haul, over-the-road trucks.
Tires designed for one application normally will not perform well in different applications.
For example, a line-haul drive tire usually will not have the chipping and chunking resistance that an on-/off-road tire will have while an on-/off-road drive tire will not provide the tread mileage of a line-haul tire in an over-the-road operation.
Line-haul vehicles usually make runs that exceed 500 miles and operate on highways and interstates with few stops. They average 80,000 to 200,000 miles a year. This operation is typical of national, less-than-truckload (LTL) and truckload (TL) carriers.
Regional vehicles normally run about 250 miles a day within a limited multi-state area such as the Midwest, Northeast, Southeast, etc. They usually average 30,000 to 80,000 miles a year and are operated by local grocery stores, petroleum distributors and regional LTL and TL carriers.
Urban pickup-and-delivery trucks operate just in their local area and run very short mileages with a high percentage of stops. These vehicles average 20,000 to 60,000 miles a year and are operated by school bus operators, retail and wholesale stores, package delivery fleets and beverage distributors.
Vocational trucks operate both on paved roads and unimproved roads in gravel, mud and sand at lower speeds and normally run between 10,000 and 70,000 miles a year in highly aggressive conditions. They are operated by construction companies, coal mines, utilities and sanitation companies, to name a few.
Tread patterns designed for linehaul and regional operations are compounded and designed to produce high tread mileage with resistance to irregular wear and have low rolling resistance for better fuel economy.
Long-haul drive tires with deep treads are designed for maximum mileage, while drive tires with shallower tread depths are designed for maximum fuel economy. Trailer tires with shallow tread depths are produced to minimize irregular wear and maximize fuel economy too.
Tread patterns for pickup-and-delivery operations are designed to prevent damage from hazards that urban tires encounter daily, such as punctures from debris and contamination from oil in city streets and gutters.
They also are compounded for high-turning, low-mileage applications and are designed to provide good wet traction.