Tire management is a fleet managing fundamental—and that’s true regardless of the fleet size. The trick is finding the tire management strategy that’s right for your application, which can be a moving target in the quickly evolving last-mile delivery segment, where light-duty vans roam suburban streets. It’s populated by both established fleets who are diversifying into new applications and new, smaller players who buy a couple of vans and aim to grow their business. And both have to contend with tire costs in start-and-stop, high-curbing applications.
“The tire knowledge between large and small fleets is vastly different,” said Josh Simpson, senior vice president of proprietary brands at American Tire Distributors Inc. (ATD). “The larger fleets look at efficiency and cost per mile, whereas the smaller fleets focus on an affordable tire that meets mileage demands. They’re changing tire sets three to four times a year, depending on the application and where they are geographically.”
Understanding the demands from the array of fleet customers, ATD looks to lend a helping hand to last-mile fleets with the expansion of the Hercules Tire portfolio and a focus on bringing a fleet-minded service process to their local shops. Let’s start with the tires.
“Our goal, depending on application, is to focus on improving treadwear and mileage,” Simpson said, “and then we’ve put an emphasis on increasing wet traction just due to overall safety, as well as the optimization of our overall footprint.”
To do that, the Hercules lineup will transition from its established H Series to the Strong Guard lineup. The Hercules Strong Guard line currently includes the following varieties:
• H-RA (Regional all position)
• H-RD (Regional deep all position)
• H-TL (Long-haul trailer)
• H-DO (Open shoulder drive)
• H-DC (Closed shoulder drive)
• H-MW (Mixed service–wide based all position)
And there’s more to come.
“We have six different styles over 46 SKUs still to come in 2021 and 2022,” Simpson said. “Our main focus is to stay on the forefront of newer technologies and manufacturing capabilities.”
The aim is to pass the value onto the fleet customer. “They’re always being challenged to lower costs and increase mileage and improve fuel efficiency,” he said. “When it comes to retreads, you need to have a solid casing. So the Hercules strength is what backs up that value.”
Another piece of the fleet value puzzle is service—having a partner who can put your rolling equipment back to work when you run into an unplanned maintenance issue. This can be a challenge for small, local fleets that are focused on running productively.
“When we talk about those small, independent fleets, not only are we improving our product and reach with the Strong Guard series, but we’re also improving our program,” Simpson said. On the tire dealer side, fleets can ask if their dealer is a Hercules Flex Program member, which creates a stronger commercial link to support Hercules’ approximately 500 independent commercial tire dealers and 3,500-plus independent passenger tire dealers that can leverage ATD’s 140 North American distribution centers to get the right tires into the right fleet applications when they’re needed.
“The Hercules brand is about more than just a good quality product or a logo. To me, when you look at a brand, you have to take into consideration our fill rates, our ability to have the right inventory and delivery of that inventory,” Simpson said. “The fact that we are partnered with ATD, and they are distributing it exclusively, gives Hercules a big advantage and it gives the dealers a big advantage also.”
An advantage in tire choice and availability that is passed down to the fleet. The more the last mile delivery segment and regional haul applications grow, the more support you’re going to need. The right partnership with a local tire dealer is going to play a key role in growth.