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Jason Miller, Cooper Tire’s national fleet channel sales manager, is a fountain of truck and trailer tire knowledge that easily flows into the conversation. One minute you’re standing in a trade show booth shaking hands with him and saying, “Hi,” and the next you’re listening to Miller talk about his adventures crawling around trailer tires in some fleet’s yard and having a ball doing it.
Tires are round, black and well established in their physics, but talking with Miller, somehow you see them as puzzle pieces of efficiency and productivity. Moldable rubber that could mean big ROI if you could just manage them more effectively. Honestly, tire management tips are best told by Miller himself. So imagine you’ve stopped by the Cooper Tire booth at the most recent trucking industry trade show, you were lucky enough to run into the tire management maestro, and now you can sit back and enjoy the symphony of tire service and management tips.
What truck tire data is worth focusing on?
Miller: One thing we talk about at Cooper is that there’s a difference between data and information. Information is what I am actually going to do with that data. The data is just numbers. I’m a data guy. I love numbers. I’m a math guy. I can just look at a chart with a bunch of numbers and it makes sense to me. Most people don’t do that math. …
What we learned, almost by accident, is that if you’re out there crawling over the trucks and you take all this data and there’s so much data you can capture. You can then take that data and you throw it to a fleet and say, “Hey, let’s talk about it.”
But what do you talk about?
Miller: I found a tool that can pull an odometer off a trailer.
Off the trailer?
Miller: I know! I knew the pieces and parts existed so there had to be something I could use to capture data from a trailer. So I found a guy who had one.
Miller is being modest. He actually built his own scan tool that could capture data from a trailer and hit the road with him because Miller puts more miles on the fleet-visit odometer than a fleet’s own tractor. The challenge is that most people really don’t give the trailer tire what it’s due, but if you look at the total value proposition the math really adds up:
• steers are two tires;
• drives are eight tires; and
• trailers are eight (for most fleets).
Ironically, when you’re a tier two player, trailer tires are the easiest position to win with fleets. They might give you drives, and they covet the steer position. But when you want to sell trailer tires, how do you de-commoditize the trailer tire?
So what’s the answer? How should fleets be looking at trailer tire investments?
Miller: If a trailer tire goes down-the truck is down. Because I know the trailer mileage, I also measure the tread depth and tread wear.
At this point, Miller rattles off a barrage of tread wear measurement and percentages that basically boil down to rationale for Cooper maintenance teams being able to predict the wear rate and the ROI a fleet is able to realize from a given trailer tire in a given position.
Miller: This is going to sound like a bad sales open, but you’ve really got to get to know that tire. You look at it, what’s happening here? One of my favorite lines from Colombo is when the person at the house looks at him and says, “What exactly are you looking for?” He says, “I don’t really know, but I’ll know when I find it.” …
That’s what we do: our teams stay close to our customer’s tires. Say a tire’s worn unevenly. Does this matter? Does it not matter? Take a deeper look at the data and you’ll find patterns. Is the wear on every single truck? Is it only this brand of tire? Is it only on this brand of truck? Is it only on the right front? Is it only on the first axle? …
The Cooper Commercial tire teams have these conversations on a regular basis. We throw those questions out to the customer, and then they fill in the puzzle. ‘Oh, well, we changed the maintenance practice’, or something like that. …
For my team, the real magic is in helping somebody pull costs out of a tire program. At Cooper, we rigorously test our commercial tires with trucking fleets across North America. Our entire line has been designed and engineered to deliver quality and value with a specific focus on the total cost of ownership. Tires, fleets and situations may be different, but we approach every fleet challenge with a Low Cost of Ownership (LCO) mentality. I’ve seen the biggest impact for fleets come not from big brand or product changes, instead, the biggest impact comes from solid maintenance practices.
The Tire Whisper’s top truck tire takeaway
Miller: More often than not the fleet manager has to worry about DPF filters, brakes, drivers, steering, electrical. There are a thousand components that are causing him grief. Tires may not be one of them … until you drill down. Many will find that tires are the biggest maintenance expense over time. …
It’s a huge expense. When you ask them, ‘Tell me about this tire, or better yet, if you’ve got a minute, can we go out and look at it?” Looking at a picture doesn’t register deep in the memory, but touching, engaging several different senses, gets them engaged in it. …
We want to find something to pull the cost out of a fleet’s tire program somehow. That’s why I say I’m a Columbo fan-I don’t know what I’m looking for, but I’ll know when I find it.