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Saving money with tire service care

Robert Kreglow revamped his fleet’s tire service program, streamlining tire maintenance – while adding life to the tires and controlling costs

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Robert Kreglow was an owner-operator for 20 years—before the days of cell phones, when CBs were the big 10-4. So, he knows firsthand all about tire issues and the hours involved if there is a breakdown on the road. 

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He also knows about driving for a company that has a mix of company drivers and owner operators. For several years, he piloted his own truck for Ohio Eastern Express. But an opportunity came knocking, and Kreglow was ready to hang up his keys to become transportation manager for the Sandusky, Ohio-based company.

The move from owner-operator to transportation manager has been smooth and Kreglow has used what he learned on the road and in the military—he was in the Air Force for seven years, serving as a heavy equipment operator and maintenance technician. He coupled that experience with best practices to knock down tire costs for Ohio Eastern Express.

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“Back when I was driving, dealing with tire issues on the interstates was a huge inconvenience,” he recalls. “If I couldn’t get help through the CB, sometimes I would have to hitchhike into town so I could find a tire dealer to come out and replace a tire. It was time-consuming to say the least, and costly.”

Today, cell phones make handling emergency tire problems easier, but there still is a discrepancy between a well-run over-the-road tire program and an unreliable program.

“Before moving to fleetHQ a year ago, we were getting by with a program that we thought was the norm in the industry, especially for smaller fleets,” says Kreglow.

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“We were working with a tire service that charged us close to $50 per incident. They directed us to tire shops and truck stops that would sell our drivers retreaded drive and trailer tires that were questionable in quality, to say the least. Plus, we generally were billed $300 or so for retreaded drive and trailer tires that did not meet our standards. What we got is what we got. We were stuck,” he added.

Upon learning of the fleetHQ program from Belle Tire, in nearby Toledo, Ohio, Eastern Express was quick to adopt the program for its fleet of 60 tractors and 60 trailers. “We haul time-sensitive fresh pork and general freight from Ohio to the eastern seaboard—typically New York,” says Kreglow. “About half of our fleet is owner-operators leased to us and we have them enrolled in fleetHQ through us, as well. The program gives a small operation like ours big fleet benefits. And, it’s great for our owner-operators.”

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After a year with fleetHQ, Kreglow figures the company saved close to $4,000 on fees it no longer had to pay to locate service facilities. “With fleetHQ, the service call is free—no incidence fee. And we specify that we want Kelly tires on the trailer position, and a premium steer tire such as Goodyear’s G395 LHS on the steer or drive position. If we put it on the drive, when we see the truck in a day or two, we’ll swap out the steer tire that was put on the drive position, save it for later, and replace it with a retreaded drive tire.”

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Since all the bills are consolidated and come through Belle Tire, Kreglow says he no longer has to manage and input receipts and paperwork from various tire and truck stops. “The fleetHQ program makes everything so easy,” he said. “We pay what we normally pay at home—we don’t get gouged and we have much better tires with long life to control our costs. Plus, our downtime when repairs or new tires are installed is reduced—we generally get back up and running in less than two hours. And I’m estimating that we’re saving in excess of 20% in our total tire program, thanks to fleetHQ.”

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While over-the-road tire problems are now well handled, the rest of Ohio Eastern Express’ tire program is also well executed.

“Once our steer tires wear down to 4/32nds, they’re pulled and retreaded for use on the drive position,” says Kreglow. “Typically, we’ll retread them again when they’re worn for another run in the drive position. Then we’ll do a third retread for the trailer position. Retreading three times really cuts our tire costs, and it all starts with a quality casing, which Goodyear brings to the table in the G395.”

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Another key component is proper axle alignment and inflation levels. Whenever new steer tires are put on, a three-axle alignment is conducted using Ohio Eastern Express’ own alignment equipment. “And, if we notice any alignment problems down the road, we’re quick to get the truck back on the alignment machine.”

Inflation levels are kept at 100 psi in all three tire positions and tires are gauged every 15 to 20 days. In addition, drive tires are rotated every 90 days or 30,000 to 36,000 miles.

Visual inspections take place constantly, as well. “Three times a week, we’re driving into New York City, so our tires hit a lot of curbs and suffer through some bad roads,” says Kreglow. “Plus, we’ll have a lot of scrubbing on narrow streets.”

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As Kreglow approaches his 20th anniversary with Ohio Eastern Express as a driver and transportation manager, he says he couldn’t be more pleased with his tire program.

“We’re doing very well with the life of our tires in some pretty harsh conditions,” he says. “And, we’ve come a long way from the CB and hitchhiking to find a guy to help with a tire problem. I only wish I had fleetHQ when I was driving.”

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