Low rolling resistance tires allow fleets to operate with a better fuel economy than standard tires by reducing the amount of energy lost through friction between the tread of the tire and the road.
Although low rolling resistance tires can reduce a vehicle’s fuel consumption between 3 and 10%, their implementation does come with additional costs.
Getting the best return out of a switch to low rolling resistance tires therefore involves managing your fleet operations in a way that maximises their fuel-saving potential while minimizing the additional costs associated with their deployment.
This article will explain how to do exactly that.
Make sure that improving fuel economy is the highest priority in your fleet
Low rolling resistance tires cost around 20-50% more than the equivalent standard tire. Maintenance costs for these tires are also higher than with standard tires, as they need to be replaced and retreaded more frequently.
The aim with low rolling resistance tires is to offset these additional costs by fuel savings. However, attempting to do this only makes sense if you are currently overspending on fuel.
In general, fuel costs make up around 60% of a fleet’s total operating costs. If your fuel costs are running under this figure, then chances are that there are other inefficiencies in your fleet operations that could be improved before switching to low rolling resistance tires.
If your fuel costs are significantly more than 60% of your operating costs, then switching to low rolling resistance tires could be a prudent move.
Ensure that low rolling resistance tires are only fitted out on suitable vehicles
Low rolling resistance tires offer the greatest benefits to your fuel economy on vehicles that travel at consistently high speeds. This is because tires produce most heat when travelling at higher speeds. Low rolling resistance tires save energy by reducing the amount of heat created.
Therefore low rolling resistance tires are only likely to pay for themselves in fuel savings for motorway fleet vehicles. Vehicles that regularly travel on more congested roads, or on mixed terrain, are less suitable for these types of tires.
Furthermore, low rolling resistance tires are particularly unsuitable for vehicles that will travel on muddy or lower quality roads. This is because they often have a shallower tread depth and therefore offer less traction than standard tires.
You should optimize your routes to ensure that your vehicles are always traveling on the fastest moving and highest quality roads before considering the switch to low rolling resistance tires.
Make sure that your drivers are educated about how to properly maintain their tires
Low rolling resistance tires only offer fuel savings when they are properly inflated. Any reduction in rolling resistance due to the technology of these tires is more than lost in the additional rolling resistance added when tires are not at their correct pressure.
Drivers should therefore be educated on how to measure their tire pressure, how regularly this should be checked, and where they can inflate their tires during their routes. This may sound trivial, but a study by Continental revealed that 34% of fleet vehicle’s tires are regularly underinflated and that 17% of fleet drivers do not know how to check their tire pressure.
Low rolling resistance tires are an expensive initial investment, so having them installed to your fleet vehicles without having proper driver education and behaviour analysis will likely waste your money in the long run.
Streamline your maintenance function
In reducing friction between the tire and the road, low rolling resistance tires can sacrifice some durability and longevity. Although this sacrifice is not devastating to the tires’ ability to save you money in the long term, it does mean that they require more regular maintenance than regular tires.
These maintenance costs should be factored into your decision to purchase low rolling resistance tires for your fleet. If maintenance costs are already more expensive than you ideally want, then the decision to switch to low rolling resistance tires may only exacerbate this.
Conversely, if you keep maintenance in-house, and can repair and replace tires without too much cost or vehicle downtime, then this should greatly improve your chances of achieving a good ROI from low rolling resistance tires.
Understanding which tires you are getting
Since low rolling resistance tires are a new technology, being first developed in the 1990s, their reliability and efficiency has come on leaps and bounds in the last ten years.
Currently, there are two broad types of low rolling resistance tires available.
More affordable tires decrease rolling resistance by having reduced tread. These therefore wear much quicker than standard tires and sacrifice control and traction in favour of rolling resistance. They are not that far off driving on half-worn tires.
More expensive tires achieve lower rolling resistance through the use of state-of-the-art silica emulsifiers that allow for smoother traction without sacrificing that much control or durability.
If you are planning on switching to low rolling resistance tires, make sure that you can budget for the more state-of-the-art models. More affordable tires of this type are a false economy, whereas the more sophisticated ones can provide real savings over time.
Low rolling resistance tires do have the potential to save your fleet money by improving fuel economy, however you need to do your homework on their total lifetime costs and their suitability to your fleet’s function(s).
This is why knowing your numbers such as the breakdown of your operational costs, maintenance costs, and total mileage per vehicle is so important. Without such fleet monitoring, you cannot make fully informed investment decisions for your fleet.