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Are you failing at tyre management?

April 11, 2019
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We’ve all heard about fleet management, driver management, fuel management or operations management – but nobody ever really talks about tyre management… That’s right, tyre management. GAVIN MYERS gets talking.

Most operators would lump this in with fleet management, and that would be an end of it. However, to truly get the most from a vehicle’s tyres – to ensure they last a full service life, contribute to keeping running costs down, and maintain vehicle roadworthiness and safety – will require a dedicated approach to tyre management.

Safety Grip and Eqstra Fleet Management (EFM) are two entities that advocate and offer such a service. We asked them what tyre management is all about, and why operators are failing to maintain their tyres accordingly and therefore landing up with unsafe vehicles on the roads.

“Our experience and data tell us that South African commercial vehicle operators mostly control rather than manage their tyres,” comments Peter Simelane, national manager, tyres, for Eqstra Tyre Management, a division of EFM. “In many fleets, the operators do not consider the quality of the products they are buying, and the purchasing of tyres is driven by cost per unit instead of cost per kilometre.”

Frikkie Swart, retail sales manager at Safety Grip, says that while some transporters manage their fleets very well, most don’t manage the tyres of their fleets as well as they should. “This can cause vehicle breakdowns, which can cost transporters more than they bargained for, or the loss of innocent lives as a result of truck accidents,” he comments.

According to the tyre-management experts, many operators make basic mistakes when it comes to managing their tyres. Simelane notes that number one on the list is incorrect purchasing.

“Decisions are not driven by analysing tyre data, but by cost, supplier recommendations and personal perceptions. The second mistake is inadequate tyre maintenance – including aspects such as tyre pressure, rotation, wheel alignment and balancing,” he comments.

Simelane adds that these mistakes are driven by a lack of credible data, the incorrect attitude towards tyre management, as well as inadequate knowledge, skills and resources.    

Swart agrees: “A tyre is an air vessel that can carry a certain load at a certain speed. Most operators seem to forget how much technology goes into developing these vessels, which have to be used in the most accurate way to give the most economical outcome.

“It is the small things that cause tyre costs to run through the roof… A variance of ten percent in tyre pressure could cause at least an 11-percent loss in tyre life. A valve cap keeps the inner valve clean from dust, rust and foreign matter, which could lead to blowouts,” he continues.

What, then, should operators be doing, and how can they approach tyre management if this is not something they have done before?

Simelane advocates the collection and use of data. “Operators must start looking at the tyre as an asset and treat it as such. The best approach is to have a proper system in place to collect and process credible tyre data for informed decision-making,” he says, adding that, with the correct support and skills development, operators can create a “tyre culture” for themselves.

Swart is philosophical about the issue: “Failing to plan equals planning to fail,” he asserts. “A great operator will introduce a ‘preventative maintenance programme’, which will include effective, ongoing vehicle maintenance and safety inspections that are undertaken by a trained and responsible person in the organisation.”

The same rules that apply to general fleet management and maintenance also apply to tyres: for example, identified defects must be fixed before vehicles go on the road; all maintenance, defects and repairs must be monitored; and all staff involved with the roadworthiness of vehicles must be capable and properly trained.

However, when it comes to tyres, what sort of “defects” should one look out for?

First and foremost it is important to use the correct tyres for the vehicle’s application. These tyres must then be inflated to the correct pressure (this can affect fuel consumption by as much as five percent, says Swart) and must not be mismatched in terms of make or size.

Comprehensive tyre inspections and surveys must be undertaken monthly and analysing scrap tyres with suppliers will help to establish where problems lie and what needs to be rectified.

“Operators need to be consistent. To undertake a daily survey on vehicles leaving the premises for delivery will not take more than ten minutes. That little bit of time can save them thousands, if not millions, of rand each year,” Swart comments.

“Don’t be penny wise and pound foolish – it is not always the cheap tyre that runs at the lower cost. Premium products will save money if they are monitored and maintained correctly,” he adds.

It’s clear then that implementing tyre-management policies should be an integral aspect of any transport operation.

While some might be intimidated by the thought, specialists in tyre management – such as Safety Grip and Eqstra Tyre Management – can help create a tyre-management system and impart knowledge and technical information to operators with the aim of reducing overall tyre and fleet costs, as well as ensuring vehicle roadworthiness and improving safety.

My life has always revolved around anything with wheels and an engine. It doesn’t matter if its an old banger, the latest hot-hatch or a fancy 4×4 – any excuse is a good excuse to take it for a cruise, spank it at the track or go bundu-bashing (the mud-and-rocks-side-of-a-mountain type, not the exploring-Joburg’s-pavements type). Otherwise, chances are you’ll find me lying underneath one of my beloved toys or with my head buried in its engine bay, tinkering away.

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