Tuesday 10 December 2019

Race for the top in the truck tyre market

Premium manufacturers Bridgestone and Michelin are forging ahead with efforts to produce even more efficient truck tyres.

Speaking at the FTA transport manager conference in Sparkford, Terry Salter, truck and bus project manager of Bridgestone (pictured, right), explained how forward-thinking operators could use new technology to cut diesel bills by combining the latest fuel-efficient tyres with vehicle telematics and tyre pressure monitoring systems.

“We have had 20 years of ‘fuel-efficient’ tyres in the truck market, but in 2018 they took less than five per cent of the UK truck tyre market,” he admitted.

“Why? They cost about £30 a tyre more, and they last only 70 to 80 per cent of the life of a ‘normal’ tyre.

“The real-world fuel-saving on the first generation of tyres was only about two per cent, but this is now improving.”

Mr Salter outlined several factors that had combined to improve tyre performance.

“The EU has forced truck manufacturers to work with tyre manufacturers to improve fuel economy. The introduction of tyre labelling to indicate performance in terms of wet grip, noise and rolling-resistance in 2012 has also provided an incentive to improve performance.”

In the last two years, the introduction of high-silica content, low hysteresis material had enabled tyre manufacturers to reduce heat build-up in tyres and lower their rolling-resistance. This had been enabled by the invention of new mixing techniques.

While the fuel bill for a truck running on tyres ‘D’ rated for fuel efficiency would be almost £56,500 for 200,000 km in a year, switching to ‘A’ rated tyres would get that cost below £50,000, for an extra tyre cost of around £1000.

Many fleets were now using telematics to gather large amounts of information on truck operations for use within the business. Accurate information on fuel consumption enabled the operator to see the contribution tyre choice made to fuel economy.

Initial take-up of tyre pressure monitoring systems had been limited by high cost and a lack of clarity over the benefits, but the increase in tyre life and fuel economy and the reduction in breakdowns was now well documented.

“Most CV tyre failures are due to penetration by an object, but it can take weeks between the object penetrating the tyre and the tyre failing. TPMS will pick up the initial pressure loss very quickly,” Mr Salter said.

“The first yard-based drive-over systems had a high capital cost making them suitable for large fleets only, but now individual trucks can have self-contained real-time TPMS, or the pressures can be collected during the daily check by smartphone.”

Maintaining correct pressure is vital if the advertised benefits of fuel-efficient tyres are to be realised.

“TPMS and telematics are for everyone, but fuel-efficiency tyres are not,” Mr Salter admitted, adding that they were however suitable for long-haul and single-drop applications.

Bridgestone’s latest launch in the fuel-efficient tyre segment is the Ecopia H002, which offers ‘A’ ratings for fuel-efficiency on dedicated tyres for steer, drive and trailer axles, while retaining a ‘B’ rating for wet-weather grip on all axles positions. Additionally, the Ecopia H002 claimed victory in wet-weather traction testing conducted by TUV Sud in 2018, and has 3PMSF and M + S ratings for Winter fitments.

Meanwhile, Michelin has launched the next-generation version of its X Line Energy multi-position fuel-efficient tyre in the 315/70 R22.5 size commonly specified for steer axles on Euro VI tractors.

The X Line Energy Z2 tyre has an ‘A’ rating for fuel efficiency and fitting a pair to the front axle will save operators 0.4 litres of fuel over 100 km, reducing CO2 output by 10g per km, compared to the predecessor tyre, which had a ‘B’ rating for fuel economy. It is suitable for trucks and coaches covering long distances at high speeds.

It features a Regenion tread, which exposes a fresh pattern as the tyre wears, ensuring grip remains consistent through the tyre’s life.

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