By Peggy J. Fisher:

Advanced technology provides solutions that can help fleets better manage their tire maintenance, increase fuel economy, reduce operating costs and improve safety

Peggy J. Fisher,President, Tirestamp Inc

Fleets all over the world are facing similar challenges in maintaining their truck and/or bus tires efficiently and successfully. Some of the problems they have include:
• Road side tire-related breakdowns that occur far too often
• Drivers who are not interested in maintaining tire assets as part of their jobs
• Lack of information and visibility of tire problems
• Service personnel’s ignorance of the fleet’s tire policies and maintenance practices
• Not knowing who serviced their fleet’s tires, when the service occurred, and the quality of the work done
• Invoices for tire service and tire-related breakdowns that pile up because they arrive long after these events occurred and no one is quite sure what the “real” story was that long ago
• Analyzing reams of EXCEL spreadsheets with raw tire data collected by manual processes, data loggers or TPMS systems
• Increasing pressure to improve fleet tire safety ratings especially in countries that have vehicle safety inspections
The challenges noted above are real concerns for commercial truck or bus fleets. But the good news is that advanced technology provides solutions to these issues that can help fleets better manage their tire maintenance, increase their fuel economy, reduce their operating costs and improve safety.

1 Knowing when tires are improperly Inflated

The primary problem in maintaining commercial truck tires is finding tires that are improperly inflated. Technicians spend hours trying to find that needle in the haystack. Due to the amount of time and effort it takes to remove a valve cap, gauge a tire and replace the valve cap, people have come up with all kinds of tools and techniques like “tire billys”, “thumpers”, and ballpeen hammers to quickly determine if a tire is underinflated. None of these methods work and improperly inflated tires are missed and left to run on the road at their peril. The result is failed tires and enroute breakdowns.
The solution to this problem is advanced tire pressure monitoring solutions otherwise known as TPMS 2.0 systems. This technology monitors tires while they are moving or parked and alert not just the driver when a problem first starts, but technicians and fleet management as well. Some systems are very intelligent and know where the vehicle is as it runs down the road and send alerts to those close by who can address the problem tire. These people may be the fleet’s emergency road service call center, the personnel at the fleet’s nearby location, or a tire service provider the fleet has designated. When the vehicle is in the fleet’s yard, only the technicians and managers at that location get alerts. The fleet manager designates who gets alerts and the alert severity level they need.
Technicians at a fleet’s maintenance location never have to manually gauge tires again. They just bring vehicles up on an app through an Internet portal and check tire pressures on their tablets or smart phones.

2 Avoiding road delays

Enroute breakdowns for tire-related problems can delay a vehicle for hours. This results in lost driving time and vehicle productivity, angry customers, and late delivery penalties. Preventing enroute tire failures is at the top of most fleets Tire Wish Lists.
Many TPMS 2.0 systems monitor tires 24/7 and provide work orders for technicians to use each morning or at the beginning of each shift that advises them of vehicles with tire problems so that they can address these issues before drivers arrive and head out on the road. By proactively maintaining tires, 90% of tire failures and breakdowns can be prevented.
If a problem develops on the road, these solutions enable fleet managers to find the closest service provider to the vehicle or they can alert their call center to the problem before the vehicle breaks down which can direct the driver to a service center.

3 Knowing when tire problems are developing

Often drivers ignore tire pressure monitoring systems in order to deliver the freight, get home, or because they are just too busy trying to negotiate traffic congestion. If Operations or Dispatch is aware a tire problem is developing, it can provide the driver with instructions for handling the problem and eliminate a failed tire and an emergency breakdown.
Some TPMS 2.0 alerts have three severity levels: Warnings, Critical, and Catastrophic alerts. Since designated fleet personnel receive these alarms, they get advanced warnings when a problem first starts to develop as well as the wheel position in which it is located. Alert thresholds are set by the fleet manager and can easily be set and changed with a click of the mouse. Fleet personnel will know when tires become underinflated, overinflated, overheated and may even know when dual tire pressures are mismatched which creates irregular wear.
If a fleet has problems with drivers ignoring alerts and continuing to drive on bad tires, some TPMS 2.0 solutions will record when the driver acknowledged the alert so it can hold the driver responsible.
Jumping on these issues as they develop and keeping tires properly inflated optimizes tire performance as well as saves fuel and eliminates emergency breakdowns.

4 Verification of Proper Tire Service and Maintenance

Many fleets today outsource their tire maintenance to commercial tire service providers. Frequently these service technicians are asked to check all the vehicles on the yard on specific days and fix all the problems they find. Or they are called on demand to address a specific tire on a vehicle when needed.
When the fleet manager gets the bill for the service, he scratches his head and wonders if the service was actually needed, if it was really done, and if so, if it was done according to his fleet’s specifications. In the past, the only way he had to check it was to find the vehicle and inspect the tire. Today, there is a better way.
A few TPMS 2.0 solutions provide a service history report that lists the vehicles with tires that were serviced the previous week or month. This report tells the user the condition of the tire before service, after it was serviced, whether the service met the fleet’s specifications, who performed the service, and where it occurred. It provides the fleet manager with the proof needed to verify tire work was done and the information required to improve poor service work and support bill payment. It enables managers to monitor the quality of their tire maintenance without leaving their desks!

5 Technicians performing Proper Tire Maintenance

Whether it’s a fleet’s own technicians or a tire service provider’s, tire maintenance is frequently not performed to a fleet’s specifications due to bad gauges, guestimates made due to hot tire pressures, or not correctly knowing what the fleet’s target pressures are.
Some TPMS 2.0 solutions automatically take human error out of maintaining tires. They can advise the technician of the tire’s target pressure, calculate cold inflation pressure, and accurately advise technicians of the exact amount of pressure to add or remove from tires which is vital especially if they just came in hot off the road. This takes the guess work out of tire maintenance. Even if the technician’s gauge is off, he can still gauge whether he has added or removed the correct number of pounds as directed.

6 Keeping Wheels on Vehicles

Every fleet’s worst fear is having tire/wheel assemblies come off vehicles while they run down the road. A wheel-off is sure to be catastrophic to anything it hits and is costly. The problem is after a tire is changed at one location, when the unit gets to its next destination, no one at that location knows the tire was changed and that the wheel nuts should be re-torqued. Also, it’s too easy to neglect checking the hub cap oil especially on trailers, which, if low, can cause bearings to seize and axle-ends to detach or the vehicles to catch on fire.
One TPMS 2.0 solution knows when a tire has been changed and reminds the fleet to check wheel nut torque after the vehicle has run the number of miles the fleet has specified after a tire change. In this way fleet managers can be sure wheels stay on their vehicles. The technology also monitors axle end heat and compares each axle end to the other. If one is running hot, an alert is generated to check the axle end for brake problems, frozen wheel bearings and tire problems long before the axle end detaches or the vehicle catches on fire.

7 Complying with Regulations

Fleets in many countries are dealing with governmental safety requirements and/or rating systems that gather data from roadside inspections, traffic violations, and crashes, and includes it in their safety ratings. Since in most countries tires are a leading cause of roadside inspection citations, fleets are having to scrutinize their maintenance practices and are looking for technologies that will help them get more control of their tire maintenance programs.

TPMS 2.0 technology: Benefits

TPMS 2.0 technology is just the thing fleets need to maintain their tires better and reduce the number of tick marks in the “bad” column in their safety ratings. By alerting them to tire and wheel end problems as they develop, fleet managers can direct drivers to nearby tire service providers before things get bad and schedule the service for their arrival. If a fleet does get cited for a tire problem, TPMS 2.0 technology can provide documented proof that the problem was corrected.
The challenges noted above are real concerns for all commercial truck or bus fleets. The good news is that there is an advanced technology that provides solutions to these issues. TPMS 2.0 solutions not only continually track vehicles and monitor their tires to give fleet personnel the visibility and information they need to manage their tire maintenance, but also increase their fleet’s fuel economy, improve its safety rating, and reduce its tire and operating costs.