By Adam Gosling:

When a team enjoys success, there is invariably a strong leader acting as a captain. In the absence of a good captain, the team can’t produce the best results. In the case of tyres on a vehicle, the captain is the driver who influences the way they act

When we think about a team, the usual association is to football or cricket for instance. The saying “there’s no ‘I’ in team” is well understood by people involved in competitive sports.
Tyres are an example of team work in more ways than one. Tyres, as a composite assembly of varying materials, embody a requirement that is absolutely critical in that each part works in unison and supports the members of the team. A single area of weakness has been the cause of demise of many a good tyre! The road gators are fine examples – here the tread rubber is almost complete, but is just separate from its member casing or carcass. A failed team effort.
Each material a tyre is constructed from has to contribute to the success of the team, sorry, tyre. Tyres are quite unique with conflicting requirements of the same materials, the tread must have excellent wear and traction qualities whilst the liner must resist the passage of air molecules and flex freely. “It’s only rubber” is a gross understatement and degrades what each tyre provides for the society.
Whilst understanding the construction of a tyre, the consideration of a series of tyres on a road vehicle which are acting as a team to support the load applied by the vehicle seems logical. Acting individually the tyres would be incapable of achieving the outcomes that a team of tyres can. There are always unicycles I accept, exceptions to rules is not unusual in the flexible world that is tyres.
Some road going trucks have only 10 tyres while others pulling trailers, sometimes 3 trailers, have 62 tyres. And then, some road trains have 82 tyres. Yes there are even some with 110 tyres on the complete rig. If all these tyres are not all performing the same work and heading in the same direction, then there is a lot of energy being burned unnecessarily. This energy comes only from one place, the fuel tank. Sometimes our push bikes would have a flat tyre; remember the amount of effort required pushing the bike home? Now consider a vehicle with tyres that are not appropriately inflated. How much energy is wasted as a result of having too many ‘Is’ in the team?
Many tyre manufacturers continue to work on low rolling resistance tyres, which are promoted to save fuel and so have lower operating costs. The question then arises are all the tyres on the vehicle heading in the same direction? Wheel alignment is a critical factor most often overlooked, not unlike tyre inflation pressures, one must ask why do people ignore these factors and end up complaining about poor tyre life and excessive fuel consumption, worn out equipment?
One fleet manager understood the complexities. A push bike racer, he knew the amount of energy that can be sucked up by tyres running out of spec. With careful working together we took the fleet’s fuel consumption, pulling triples trailers, from 1.45 km/litre to 1.85 km/litre. This was only a 46 tyre rig. After a series of adjustments moving axles by a millimeter or two, the drivers remarked that they didn’t know they had 3 trailers on the back. The truck was stable on the road, faster up hills and used less fuel. What surprised the drivers most was that they were less fatigued, this they could not understand completely until we discussed how previously they had been “chasing” the trailers down the road as each trailer was wanting to go in a different direction, axles on individual trailers were pushing or pulling in different directions.
The savings for this fleet were manifold. Not only did they gain a huge improvement in fuel consumption but they also gained improved tyre, undercarriage and driveline life but most importantly the drivers were less fatigued and safer. They were happier, less stressed and respected the equipment more than they had in the past. The costs were minimal compared to the outcomes.
Getting all the tyres running in the same direction pays dividends, multiple dividends time and time again.
So tyres have a complex environment to operate in. Not only are the tyres themselves a team in the way the various compounds and components all work in unison; but then, when multiple tyres are grouped on an axle and then to a vehicle, they are required to work as a team. When multiple trailers are used, the complexity grows exponentially, as does the potential for losses.
A lot of people consider that the steer tyres are primarily the worst for wear. Whilst this is understandable, the drive and trailing axles provide a larger influence to tyres working as individuals rather than teams. Having the tyre teams on each trailer running in the same direction pays dividends just as having the inflation pressures in the same range when they are running. If the steer tyres are turned and scrubbing there are too many individuals amongst the tyres on the truck.
In spite of having brilliant individuals as members, a football or cricket team may not win any matches or may not end up with a series win. Many disappointments have been suffered by teams losing as a result of a poor performance by some team members. The team must all be heading towards the same goal. Having individuals going in different directions is a recipe for losses, think of herding cats.
Now, a successful transport operator is accustomed to making a profit; this is the prime reason for business. So why do so many throw money out the back of the truck in higher fuel burn rates, poor tyre performance, burned out drivers fighting the vehicle down the road? This doesn’t make sense; it doesn’t make cents either.
When a team enjoys success, there is invariably a strong leader acting as a captain. In the case of tyres on a vehicle, the captain is the human, the driver or the truck owner, the person who influences the way the tyres act. The tyres cannot act in any way other than that determined by the captain. So, whilst the captain does not recognise the many ways in which his team will produce the best results, he is heading a losing proposition, every time.
Why do so many just ignore tyres and complain when the team performance is not to their expectations?
When an organisation loses a leader, there is invariably a degree of suffering. A leader will have enabled his team to take on extra responsibilities, to change, to grow and evolve, to extend their capacity to produce, to step up and contribute their best and take their place in the team. Even so, when a leader is no longer with us, a sense of loss is there for some, others carry an appreciation for the opportunities the leader provided, the faith the leader had in the members to drive the team towards success.
Vale John Powath, the team you created continues to pursue your aims. Thank you Sir for your contribution to the global rubber industry, I continue to learn from your leadership.