Tire maintenance, selection play a role in fuel savings

Cutting fuel costs is a top concern for small fleet owners, and teams are constantly on the lookout for strategies that will help them limit spending in this area. While taking the most direct route and employing behavior modification strategies are some ways managers can decrease mileage, some fleets are looking to their tires to help them with fuel savings initiatives.

Maintenance key
Tires play a role in enhancing mileage, but can easily be overlooked. Maintaining proper tire pressure is not only a must in regard to on-road safety, but also essential to ensuring optimal fuel use. Tires that are not properly inflated can contribute to higher overall fuel expenses, making it critical that drivers recognize when pressure is low and take action to rectify the problem. The U.S. Department of Energy estimates that underinflated tires can lower mileage by 0.3 percent for every 1 PSI drop. While this may not seem significant, the costs can add up, particularly if drivers are traveling long distances with improper tire pressure.

Selecting the right model a large factor
While tire maintenance is essential in the cost-cutting process, choosing the correct tires also has an impact on fuel spend. Purchasing tires designed to optimize mileage can prove extremely beneficial for some fleets. Continental Tires recently announced it has updated its best-selling commercial light truck tire line to increase rolling resistance and improve mileage by as much as 20 percent.

Choosing the right, most fuel-efficient tires is not only critical to help companies cut spending - it can also help them comply with coming environmental regulations. When new eco-friendly mandates take effect in 2014, fleets must be prepared to comply with emissions limitations and choosing the correct tires and ensuring proper maintenance may help them do so.

"Compliance with the 2014 EPA GHG [greenhouse gas] regulations is particularly important for commercial light truck tires," said Libor Heger, director of truck technology with Continental Tires. " ... This makes proper tire selection a critical step in maintaining an EPA compliant fleet, starting with original equipment."

Combining fuel saving strategies to enhance spending cuts
Tire maintenance and selection have an impact on improving mileage, and when used in conjunction with other initiatives, they can have an even greater effect on overall savings. By asking drivers to change certain behaviors, limit speed and use cruise control whenever possible, companies can see significant benefits.

Investing in new technology can also play a part in cost-cutting objectives and help an operation limit the amount it spends on fuel. Using route optimization software can not only help fleet managers spend less time planning routes, but also guarantee drivers are taking the fastest roads to make pickups and deliveries. While this can lead to significant cost savings when used on its own, the technology can provide even greater benefits when employed alongside proper tire selection and maintenance strategies.