Cost, technology and management: a look at the evolving tyre landscape

The tyre industry is changing dramatically and quickly, just like a lot of other areas of the automotive business.

Variations in technology, the growing variety of tyre sizes, budgetary constraints, and a more acute emphasis on sustainability will all have an effect on how a fleet operates.

“There have never been as many changes to tyres as there are now,” says David Legg, i247 Group’s director of tyres.

“I’ve worked in this industry for 35 years, and in all that time, the pace of innovation is unmatched.”

This is because a variety of factors, including the emphasis on sustainability and electric vehicles, have combined to drastically alter the tyre market.

“The R&D that manufacturers have had to put in to keep up with the changes in vehicles has been huge as cars and vans have advanced,” he continues.

“Trucks operate in the same way. The technology of truck tyres has advanced significantly; instead of manufacturers releasing a new pattern every few years, new tyres are being released quickly.

“This is a result of the manufacturers’ efforts to find fixes for numerous issues.”

Legg notes that i247 has created a white paper titled The Evolving Tyre Landscape – What Fleets Need to Know, which can be accessed by clicking here, to assist organisations in better understanding the challenges.

This section examines a few of the primary concerns mentioned in the report.

The secret to tyre management is being proactive.

There is no longer a small subset of typical tyre sizes; instead, many current vehicles require distinct tyre sizes and kinds due to the growing popularity of electric vehicles and big rim diameters.

For example, dedicated electric vehicle tyres are designed to withstand the extra pressure imposed by the heavy weight of the car’s battery. It is also essential that these tyres have minimal rolling resistance for silent operation and maximum range.

But fast-fit shops don’t really need to have tyres in store because EVs only make up a small portion of the market and they are less in demand.

Most people believe that there will be a delay until EV tyre replacements become a significant aspect of daily fast-fit business.

Legg states, “The fast-fits are doing their best, but they are no different from someone like Tesco in that something has to come off the shelf on a regular basis in order to pay for itself.”

Fast-fits must maintain a stock level of tyres for the retail sector, which is their main source of income and a growing segment of the market.When they need new tyres, some individuals still go directly to a fast-fit shop because they mistakenly believe that there are enormous warehouses behind each one and that what they need will be in stock. However, this is not the case.

This could result in the driver wasting their journey and needing to go to the tyre shop again.

Legg suggests that drivers of company vehicles make reservations in advance to guarantee that the appropriate tyres are available when needed.

According to him, EV owners ought to be informed upon receiving their car that it can take longer than usual for replacement tyres to arrive, thus it’s critical to do routine tyre checks to identify any problems.

He continues, “It’s a straightforward delivery message that can keep that driver proactive and ensure they check their tyres more often.”

Utilising data wisely can reduce expenses.

The tyre business is dealing with several cost issues. Significant price increases have occurred for raw materials, such as carbon black, and the cost of energy and oil—which are necessary for manufacturing—have grown due to the ongoing crisis in Ukraine.

Higher fuel and container freight rates have further increased the cost of logistics, and the difficulty in finding and keeping qualified tyre fitters has driven up wages.

Fleet finances are also impacted by the rising need for larger, more costly tyres brought on by the popularity of SUVs and electric cars.

But according to Legg, fleets can reduce the higher expenses by doing clever data analysis.

He continues, “Procurement most likely would have obtained a tyre deal based on a unit price, not on the data from the vehicle.”

“However, we recently completed a case study involving a courier company, and they are arguably the worst tyre burners available, especially for last-mile deliveries where there is a lot of damage.”With four years’ worth of data, we could examine what went wrong, what transpired, and so on with this fleet of 5,000 cars.We compared the spending of three high-end tyre brands over the course of the five-year contract, and the difference was less than one million pounds.In essence, the priciest tyre ultimately proved to be the least expensive since it was fitted with less tyres due to its reduced susceptibility to damage.

“This outcome will most likely differ for a different fleet with different vehicles, use cases, or tyre sizes; the most affordable tyre overall may come from a different manufacturer.”

According to Legg, smaller fleets could not benefit as much from this kind of analysis. He continues, “But if you have a large fleet with many identical cars, you ought to be able to use your own data to tell you what’s best for your fleet.”

Durability

According to the white paper, fleets and individual consumers should be aware that there are substantial variations in the wear rate and hazardous content of tyres depending on the brand they choose.

The largest motoring group in Europe, ADAC, based in Germany, conducted a thorough study on tyre particulate matter in 2022.

It evaluated the effects of tyre abrasion on the environment for over 100 tyres from 15 different manufacturers.

ADAC also tested the safety of environmentally friendly tyres because it is evident that there must be a balance struck between low abrasion and preserving safety. The organisation came to the conclusion that “only two manufacturers currently achieve a particularly good balance between safety and the environment; Michelin and Goodyear.”

Companies that want to lessen the influence of their tyres on pollution can do the following:

• Invest in tyres with minimal wear. This promotes environmental protection in addition to financial savings.

• Instruct drivers to routinely check the pressure of their tyres. Wear can be exacerbated by both overinflation and underinflation.

• Teach drivers how to drive consistently to guarantee minimal fuel consumption and less wear on their tyres.

· Educate people on the effects of tyre pollution and how driving habits might lessen their influence on the environment.

Novel tyre technologies

According to the report, the trend towards driverless vehicles and electric cars is propelling tyre innovation, with an emphasis on sustainability and maintenance-free tyres.

Alternative materials are being investigated by tyre makers, and non-pneumatic or airless tyres, which require less maintenance and have a smaller environmental effect, are also being produced.

Legg adds, “Innovations like intelligent tyres that offer real-time connected tyre data are also being seen.”

These generate data on traction, load, temperature, and tread wear using tiny sensors. Fleet maintenance can be provided more proactively with a more data-driven, networked approach.

Airless tyres are another breakthrough; several manufacturers have begun producing them.

Because of their unique construction, airless tyres do not require air pressure in the same manner as regular tyres.

Rather, they have a unique spoke structure that preserves the curvature of the tyre and a unique footprint that guarantees surface contact.

With the exception of the occasional re-tread, the tyres require no maintenance, which benefits both the environment and businesses.

According to Legg, “the airless tyre will hopefully support the van industry massively.” “It’s definitely on the van fleet, but I don’t see it on regular cars.”