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Tire development in a data-driven world facing electrification, connectivity and more

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Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

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There are plenty of questions still yet to be answered in terms of electric truck application and operation. Driver assistance systems continue to drive the industry down the road toward more automated trucks. And it’s all connected—not just through data, but also through its impact on fleet, OEM and supplier business cases.

“The industry’s changing right now, and we want to carve out a space in this market that we believe will be right at the heart of what the customer’s needs are,” said Eric Higgs, who was named president of truck, bus and retread tires for the U.S. and Canada at Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations (BATO) in September and quickly hit the ground rolling, listening to and organizing his sales team and dealer base to better understand the pain points in the industry and develop solutions that seek to answer problems—and not just those related to the tire.

“At the end of the day, it’s not enough for us to just provide a tire, but we have to track those assets, monitor pressure and tread depths, and provide a comprehensive solution,” he explained. “We’re focused on delivering data solutions that are going to help maximize, and ultimately predict, tire performance.”

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Data is driving the development of advanced tire technologies as well and informing the design of new tires—from the next evolution of the Bridgestone lineup that could end up on your diesel truck to the tires that meet the electrically driven needs of future trucks and even Super Trucks.

“The torquing requirements of electric trucks will set up different challenges for us to solve with our compounding, and these are things that we’re exploring right now,” Higgs said.

Consider that the prototype Freightliner eCascadia has an electric motor on each drive wheel hub and you can start to see how that could throw a wrench into fleets’ existing tire lifecycle management strategy.

Yet, electric truck tire development is just one of the potential industry changes that Bridgestone is aiming to address.

“We want to make mobility more efficient, and that includes the tires, the technology and the services we provide around them,” he said. “So in addition to services like the 24/7 access to our independent dealer network and our technology and engineering teams, we’re ensuring that we maximize uptime and drive costs down by leveraging the most up-to-date technology to keep our customers up and running, in the most efficient ways possible.”

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Part of the forward-looking tire development at Bridgestone includes the creation of new tire technologies aimed at significantly reducing the environmental impact of the more than 3.5 million heavy-duty Class 8 long-haul tractor trailer trucks on the nation’s roads as a team member of the Cummins-Peterbilt SuperTruck II program.

“We’re aiming to reduce rolling resistance even further, as it’s linked to loss of fuel and efficiency,” Higgs said. “When you can partner with great organizations on a challenge, you have the opportunity to get there quicker. We’re happy to be a part of the program.”

The prototype tires are expected to deliver up to a 6% improvement in fuel efficiency through a 30% decrease in rolling resistance compared to the 2009 baseline product tires, while meeting or exceeding customer expectations in wear and traction. At full implementation of the technology over the Class 8 vehicle population, nearly three billion gallons of diesel could potentially be saved per year, corresponding to 30 million metric tons of annual CO2 emissions reduction.

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