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Tire solutions and green business strategies to bolster the bottom line

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Advancements in electric and autonomous vehicles are redefining the transportation industry and reshaping the future of mobility. The industry is always looking for ways to operate in a more sustainable manner. In fact, a commitment to sustainability is no longer a “nice to have” story to tell, but a business imperative. Businesses are stepping up by collaborating on research and innovation to bring more sustainable solutions to the market, such as the Starship, a hyper-fuel-efficient Class 8 tractor trailer from Shell and Airflow Truck Co. that is designed to combine the top technologies in the market to create efficiencies by reducing drag and improving aerodynamics.

Many large, sophisticated fleets have made global commitments to reduce their environmental footprint and are driving impactful change. According to the Diesel Technology Forum, 30% of commercial vehicles in operation in the United States use clean diesel truck engines and emissions control centers. This initiative saved more than 4.2 billion gallons of oil between 2011 and 2016. Tires also play a large role in a truck’s fuel efficiency—on average, tire rolling resistance accounts for 13% of a combination truck’s energy use. As fleets look to make efficiency improvements, there are several easily implemented best practices that also benefit a fleet’s bottom line, including: utilizing specially-designed, low rolling resistance tires for decreased fuel consumption; pairing fuel-efficient tire casings with fuel-efficient retreads for maximum eco-performance; and addressing truck suspension to ensure tires deliver intended performance.

Rolling resistance and fuel economy

Fuel is a significant expenditure for fleets and can significantly impact their bottom line. Fuel economy is influenced by a variety of factors, including driver behavior, route, mileage, load and tire maintenance. Fleets should work with a trusted dealer partner to identify a tire designed with low rolling resistance and advanced tread compounds for eco-performance. A tire’s rolling resistance directly correlates to its fuel efficiency: As rolling resistance decreases, fuel consumption decreases, driving overall savings.

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Fleets also should consider wheel position. While fleets will achieve maximum savings by installing fuel-efficient tires at every wheel position, Bridgestone tests show that trailer tires contribute more than drive tires to tire-related fuel economy. Therefore, fleets just starting out can generate savings by utilizing fuel-efficient tires in the trailer position.

Maximize savings with fuel-efficient casings, premium retreads

Taking it a step further, fuel efficiency goes beyond the initial tire purchase. Fleets can maximize fuel savings by incorporating retreads into their tire program. Many retreads are designed for fuel economy, and AmericaMovesbyTruck.com found that some retreads have lower rolling resistance and superior fuel efficiency to new tires. Fuel-efficient tire casings deliver the greatest results when paired with fuel-efficient retreads.

For maximum performance over time, fleets can start by using fuel-efficient new tires in the steer position and then retread the casing with a premium fuel efficient retread for the drive position. Fleets have lowered tire costs to less than 1.5 cents per mile—well below the industry average—by incorporating retreads into their tire program. Together, fuel-efficient tires and retreads save fleets more than $3 billion annually, providing a smart, sustainable solution to reduce fuel consumption that benefits the bottom line and doesn’t compromise on performance.

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In addition to lowering fuel costs, retreads are also an environmentally responsible tire choice because they reduce natural resource consumption. One retread saves 15 gallons of oil during the manufacturing process compared to the manufacturing of a new tire. With approximately 15 million tires being retreaded each year, fleets that choose to retread instead of buying new tires are potentially helping to save up to 225 million gal. of oil per year.

Additionally, the retreading industry:

Those numbers demonstrate that retreads are not only a profitable solution, but a sustainable one.

Air springs: A smooth ride for maximum performance

Air springs and other anti-vibration technologies ensure fuel-efficient tires and retreads deliver on intended performance. A subpar vehicle suspension system will cause the axle and trailer to bounce endlessly through a route, generating suspension parasitic drag and, subsequently, unnatural tire wear. Correct air suspension, especially with air damping, will increase fuel efficiency, improve the lifecycle of a vehicle’s suspension and reduce tire wear and impact to road infrastructure.

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When sourcing air springs, fleets can look for products that are manufactured responsibly if they want to strive for green business practices. Manufacturing practices such as the use of environmentally friendly metal coatings or recycling programs help to improve quality and reduce waste.

Looking ahead

As the transportation industry changes, the standard for tire performance also must evolve. Tires should no longer be a transactional purchase. When integrated into the larger vehicle ecosystem, tires can improve a fleet’s overall performance and profitability, and ultimately make mobility more efficient.

This article was contributed by Sanjay Nayakwadi, director of product strategy for Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, and Graham Brookes, director of technology for Firestone Industrial Products.

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