Leveraging savvy to savings

By Charlie Morasch, contributing writer

Gary Schroeder has a simple formula he uses to help customers assess cost per mile when they’re comparing tires.

Schroeder, director of commercial vehicle and OEM sales for Cooper Tire & Rubber Co., tells a customer to take the purchase price of the original tire and divide it by the driver’s projected mileage.

“You may be paying $400 for a drive tire and your projected mileage is 390,000 miles,” Schroeder told Land Line. “So, divide your cost by the mileage and you come up with $0.001026 per mile. Then compare to another tire brand to see how your other options will perform in overall mileage and cost-per-mile.”

The fact is, however, Schroeder doesn’t need to share his formula with most truckers.

Truck drivers take pride in their ability to leverage their experience to gain a competitive advantage from truck maintenance to picking loads. Professional truck drivers understand the tires they choose can add fuel mileage and reliability to their business.

Tires often follow only fuel as a top operating expense for small trucking companies, Schroeder said.

“More than any other group, owner-operators are looking for value – performance balanced by price,” Schroeder said. “Budgets are often tight, so making an informed decision is critical for owner-operators.”

For retreads, Schroeder said a driver could take the purchase price, subtract the retread casing value then divide the result by mileage, meaning a $400 tire with a virgin casing value of $90 would leave a net cost of $310. If the tire lasted 390,000 miles, the cost per mile of tread would be $0.000795.

The tires that truck owners choose spark highly competitive sales contests each new season as tire manufacturers line up to compete for their business.

Brian Buckham, general manager for product marketing at Goodyear Commercial Tire, said Goodyear developed its SmartFleet program with a goal of providing smaller and mid-size trucking operations the same purchase benefits that traditionally have been reserved for larger fleets.

“Owner-operators need tools to compete with fleets that are many times their size,” Buckham told Land Line. “A few years ago, after careful analysis of the owner-operator segment and the needs of owner-operators, Goodyear implemented the Goodyear SmartFleet program.”

The program is no cost to join. It allows members access to premium Goodyear brand truck tires and retreads; online published pricing honored by participating Goodyear tire dealerships; Goodyear Fleet HQ 24/7 emergency roadside service; and customized tire performance and service activity reporting tools.

The Michelin Advantage Program is also free, and it’s designed for owner-operators and small fleets. You pay the same, wherever you are and there’s a program for nationwide pricing on new Michelin truck tires and retread technology. You get treated like a big fleet as far as online business tools, promotions and training opportunities. They will even waive the dispatch fee for Michelin Oncall 2.0 emergency roadside calls.

Not only are small-business truckers eyeballing tire programs that help them lower operational costs, they are constantly looking at every new tire that manufacturers roll out the door.

Recent tire offerings during spring and summer include:

Yokohama Tire Corp.’s low-rolling-resistance tires. Yokohama’s new line includes ultra wide-base (UWB), drive, trailer and steer/all-position tires. All models are EPA SmartWay-verified;

Goodyear’s new Fuel Max LHD G505D and Fuel Max LHS long-haul tires make up a combination Goodyear says is the most fuel-efficient long-haul tire combination in North America. Later this year, Goodyear plans to unveil the new Fuel Max LHT trailer tire, completing a trio of new-generation super-fuel tires for each wheel position on an owner-operator’s truck and trailer operation;

Celebrating 100 years, General Tire launched three new highway truck tires at MATS. The General HS is a new long-haul steer tire that features enhanced tread design, fuel-efficient compounding and an upgraded casing platform. The General HD, a long-haul drive tire, features a deep 32/32nd closed shoulder tread design. The General HT, a long-haul trailer tire, delivers optimal removal mileage and flexibility through an improved tread pattern.

Also at MATS, Bridgestone Commercial launched a reboot of its Dayton commercial truck tires brand with a campaign called “Tires for Truckers.”

Bridgestone introduced eight new Dayton patterns, doubling the product coverage of its former lineup, and held a contest of its own, rewarding something other than technological know-how.

The company gave a set of 10 Dayton commercial truck tires to truck driver and contest winner Roger Errett of Mount Pleasant, Pa. Errett’s talent: eating the most Buffalo wings. Bridgestone awarded runner-ups a consolation bag of prizes, including a $500 truck stop gift card. LL