Another development was run-flat tyres, with a self-supporting reinforced sidewall that allows a driver to continue a journey for 50 miles at 50mph.
These allow fleet drivers to enjoy continued mobility and control. With these tyres fitted to their car, a driver can leave a motorway or find a safe, convenient place to stop and get assistance.
Michelin’s product in this sector is the Michelin ZP (Zero Pressure) tyre.
These sorts of tyres, fitted to a limited range of vehicles, mainly BMW, need to be used in conjunction with a tyre pressure monitoring system’ in the car which alerts the driver of an issue.
Cold weather or winter tyres have been very much in the media recently and the development of these has led to considerable improvements in safety during the winter months.
These tyres are constructed using special rubber compounds which stay supple at low temperatures and therefore they offer better grip than an equivalent summer tyre.
Cold weather tyres also have many sipes, or small cuts in the tread blocks, which bite into the snow to offer traction and improved braking performance when the weather turns bad.
With this type of tyre fitted to their vehicles over the winter months, fleet managers can be sure their drivers have the best chance of staying mobile and reducing the risk of accidents.
Van tyre design has moved on leaps and bounds over the years as vans have become more powerful and developed car-like ride and handling.
Our product in this sector is the Michelin Agilis tyre, which has evolved to meet these demands and have the sturdy construction traditionally required by this sector of the market.
Additionally, the huge growth in the number of 4x4 vehicles in the fleet market has prompted tyre manufacturers to design and build new tyre ranges suitable for the different applications.
The more traditional off-road vehicles have been joined by a host of on-road cousins requiring different products to meet new applications and challenges such as the motorway and the supermarket car park.
When a fleet manager is deciding what tyres to put on his cars, is there a trade-off between safety, environmental issues and costs?
Today’s low rolling-resistance tyres have been developed to offer drivers balanced performance in terms of operating life, safety and fuel economy.
In our increasingly environmentally-conscious world, the effect that tyres can have on fuel economy is receiving particular attention.
A number of premium tyre manufacturers now commission independent tests to show the financial costs, environmental benefits and safety performance of their tyres in real-world conditions.
Michelin is one such company and the results of its 2010 tests, conducted by DEKRA and TÜV, highlight not only the fuel savings, but also the additional tyre life that some brands offer over others.
They also show that, contrary to popular belief, low rolling resistance tyres can stop in the wet at least as well as ‘black’ tyres, if not better.
The longevity and fuel consumption tests were run between 7,300 and 14,000km, depending on type of tyre, using a fleet of eight identical cars driving in two convoys.
The routes included a mix of rural, urban, national and motorway-type roads and were subject to the usual problems of congestion, variable road surfaces and changeable weather conditions.
And of course real drivers, complete with their slightly different driving characteristics.
Switching the tyres between cars and drivers, and rotating the position of the cars in the convoy eliminated the effects the cars and drivers have on the results.
Consequently, the results were as close to real-world results as it is possible to achieve and should represent the range of tyre performance experienced by the ‘average’ fleet driver.
As with most things in life, the cost of things is generally an indication of their performance and quality, and tyres are no different.
Premium tyres tend to offer high levels of performance in all areas whereas cheaper tyres may not offer comparable levels of performance in tyre life, wet grip or rolling resistance, or a combination of these.
Tyres are generally categorised as premium, second line and budget. How should a fleet manager decide which category of tyre to fit? And, having decided which category, how should they choose between manufacturers?
Certainly in the market today there are manufacturers who make tyres which can be classified as premium, second line and also budget.
The first thing a fleet manager should realise is that there are differences in performance between these products and they will not all last as long as each other, grip as well as each other, or offer the same levels of comfort, noise reduction and fuel economy.
A particularly interesting development will be the introduction of tyre labelling. This means that all car and van tyres sold from November 2012 must have a label similar to those already seen on cars and white goods.
This label will show the energy efficiency rating (rolling resistance) of the tyre, its wet braking performance and exterior noise levels.
For fleet managers this means it will be easier to identify tyres with high levels of environmental performance, although tyre life should also be considered when deciding tyre policy.
Premium tyres are also likely to give fleet vehicles improved dynamics, as vehicle and tyre manufacturers dedicate a lot of resources to ensuring that the tyre and vehicle are well matched.
This development leads to a technical approval (or homologation) from the vehicle manufacturer and original equipment supply.
The fleet manager must therefore take driver satisfaction and safety into account when considering whether fitting a cheaper option is the best solution.
They will also need to obtain the best value for money for the business, and with tyres they will find that the cheapest initial purchase price rarely delivers the best long-term solution.
Overall running costs taking into account the price, fuel efficiency, the environmental impact including CO2 emissions, and the longevity offered all need to be analysed.
It is worth noting that some high-performance vehicles are fitted with specially-developed tyres that can be identified by specialised markings (N-specification tyres in the case of Porsche).
This type of vehicle can be more sensitive to their tyre fitment than other vehicles and therefore require these specific premium tyres to be fitted.
Once a manager decides which quality of tyre will be fitted, they need to determine which manufacturer offers the most benefits for the business and the driver.
Virtually all the major fleet companies opt for tyres from the premium end of the market.
These decisions may well be taken after discussions with the major national tyre distributors, and with the tyre manufacturers themselves.
It is up to the tyre manufacturers to try and convince the manager of the benefits of fitting their products (longevity, comfort, fuel saving etc) as well as the level of technical support that is offered.
Some fleets choose to work with a very established tyre brand because they realise there are additional benefits of major brands working together in a very competitive market.
Michelin, for example, will endeavour to bring its resources from marketing, communications, and research and development to benefit the fleet and then work with them to bring added value to the drivers.
The tyre retread industry promotes retread tyres as being environmentally sound because the main part of the tyre is simply used again. What is your view of retread tyres? Are they safe?
There are very few retreaded car or light van tyres on the market today in the UK and there are no major fleets using them.
However, in the truck market, more than 17.5-inch wheel diameter, retreads have established themselves as a cost-effective solution and are used very successfully by almost all operators.
The casing of the truck tyre is designed with retreading in mind and is capable of many thousands of miles of effective and durable service.
The retreading of a car/light van tyre is not always cost effective as the cost of materials, processing and logistics will outweigh the savings.
Additionally, there are budget car and van tyres available that provide a cheap alternative to a retread tyre. Michelin does not retread any car or light van tyres.
Some tyre manufacturers offer discounts to fleet buyers. Please explain, generally, what these are and how they work?
The sale price is agreed between the tyre distributors and the fleet.
Tyre manufacturers may then offer volume purchase rebates direct to the fleets.
Michelin’s rebates are normally calculated by reference to the speed rating of the tyre.
Can you advise about using low rolling-resistance tyres to reduce fuel costs. Should fleet managers specify these tyres? How much fuel do they save and how much do they cost?
20% of a car’s fuel consumption is needed to overcome tyre rolling resistance, so tyre choice has a direct impact on fuel bills.
The technology deployed by manufacturers in their latest generation of fuel-saving or eco tyres provides even lower rolling resistance, generating even greater fuel savings and reductions in CO2 emissions.
By combining lower fuel consumption, shorter braking distances and greater longevity, advanced products such as the Michelin Energy Saver provide users with a host of benefits.
These tyres really do enable motorists to drive further, safely, while spending less.
Speaking from a Michelin point of view, whenever we launch a new generation of ‘green tyres’, they tend to be priced the same as the generation they replace.
Therefore, there is no extra purchasing cost for a fleet manager when new low rolling resistance tyres are introduced.
How much a fleet will save depends on a number of variables but, as an example, when the first Michelin Energy tyres were launched in the early-1990s, fuel savings of around 5% could be expected compared to standard ‘black’ tyres.