Fleet News

Tyres: The tyres they are a-changin’

IN a world fast becoming obsessed with health and safety, tyres are increasingly coming under the spotlight.

No longer a mere rubber ring with grooves, today’s tyre is the result of years of development.

The most notable recent technological advance is the run-flat tyre, which uses a reinforced sidewall to allow the tyre to support the weight of the vehicle even if air pressure is lost.

This has the advantage of eliminating the need for spare tyres, freeing up space inside the car. They can continue to run for a limited period after a puncture, and do not ‘blow out’ like a conventional tyre.

However, the advanced technology means they are more expensive and, unlike regular tyres, cannot be repaired. Some motorists complain of a harsher ride with run-flats.

Availability can sometimes be a problem, but with manufacturers such as BMW and Lexus now fitting them to their vehicles as standard, this could change.

But run-flats aside, there are plenty of other developments which are designed by the manufacturers with fleets in mind.

Michelin has a team of account managers dedicated to its 70 major fleet clients, and has also formed the Michelin Fleet Panel to bring fleet representatives together three times a year to talk about pressing issues.

Michelin’s main fleet tyres are the Energy, designed for long life, fuel economy and reduced braking distances, and the Pilot Primacy, a high performance tyre. A cold weather tyre, the Alpin, is due for launch shortly.

Michelin’s car fleets manager Rob Foreman said: ‘Tyre costs, as a percentage of the overall maintenance of key fleets, have increased dramatically.

‘Equally, the pressure of legislation has put more focus on safety and environmental issues. These issues have become more business critical and consequently Michelin has decided to invest resources in identifying business tools to help our key customers address those challenges.’

Goodyear’s RunOnFlat tyre continues to be big news, according to corporate communications manager James Bailey.

BMW’s 1 and 3-series cars now have RunOnFlats as standard and Goodyear is now working on an education programme to bring the public and industry up to speed on the technology.

Its latest standard tyre is the Excellence, also available as a RunOnFlat. The design aims to reduce rolling resistance and improve fuel consumption. The tyre sidewall has been constructed using Kevlar and silicone, reducing the trade-off between sportiness and comfort.

Goodyear is also monitoring the progress of its FleetOnlineSolutions tyre management package which was rolled out last year. Originally aimed at commercial vehicles, the product is now being targeted at all fleets.

Avon is also working to get more information about tyres and legal issues out to its 50-plus key fleet customers.

This comes in the form of a regular email, and trips by Avon officials to talk to fleet drivers, reporting feedback to technical staff.

Avon’s main products are the ZZ3, designed for traction in the wet and minimal road noise and the ZV3 designed for traction in dry and wet weather with a lip to prevent kerbed alloys.

Mike Cadney, national fleet manager at Bridgestone, felt the pressure on fleets to be as safe as possible meant tyre suppliers and their clients now work closer together than ever.

He said: ‘The fleet market has become more professional compared to 10 years ago.

‘We constantly try and update clients and give them a view on what’s likely to happen.

‘There are so many things they have to be careful with, they want suppliers who help them.’

Bridgestone believes the future is run-flat tyres as standard on most UK cars and is promoting run-flat (or RFT as the firm calls it) versions of its Potenza performance tyre and the Turanza.

It is a vision shared by most. Continental’s sales manager for car fleets, Phil Scanlan, said the firm was now working hard to raise awareness with both clients and distributors of the advantages of run flats.

He said: ‘Some firms think a tyre’s a tyre, but we do a lot of work with other fleets to train operational people on product knowledge. It’s a more integrated approach.’

Continental is pushing its ContiPremiumContact 2 as the top of its range. The tyre was developed for mid-range and luxury cars and so fits in well with the vehicles in many fleets.

A new cold weather tyre, the ContiWinterContact TS 800, promises comfortable control in slush and snow. As legislation forces fleets to look very carefully at the shoes their cars wear, manufacturers are realising that close relationships with fleets are needed to inspire confidence.

As a result, more information and a wider range of rubber is now available than ever before. Ignore the details of the most important element of your fleet’s vehicles and you could regret it.

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