Fleets don’t always have to go top-tier. No one likes buying tires, and that includes fleet operators.
There’s always a price to be paid when it’s time for “new shoes,” and costs can rise even more if, as with most vehicle owners, you’ve been told it’s important to use top-line tires to get maximum performance. But not every circumstance calls for it, and there are times when a tire that isn’t top-tier may be the best choice.
Such factors as cost per mile, where the tire’s being used, fleet maintenance practices, and how long the vehicle is going to remain in service are important points to consider, according to Mark Pereira, Manager of Marketing and Communications for North America Sailun Tires Americas.
Things to consider
“There are three top things for fleet managers to consider. Acquisition price versus cost per mile; making sure it is the right tire by wheel position and application; and the total life cycle of the tire,” Pereira said.
Some people believe there are only two extremes: there are top-tier tires, and then there’s the bargain-basement, no-name stuff some small tire shops buy by the shipping container from overseas. But the reality is that there is a wide range of brands in between, and these can provide you with quality tires that will do the job properly, but at more affordable prices.
Consider the factory of origin, rather than the country of origin.
— Mark Pereira, Manager of Marketing and Communications, North America Sailun Tires Americas
“A North American factory might be fifty to sixty years old, with old equipment and poor quality, (while) a modern Asia-based factory might be ten years old, with brand-new equipment and excellent, high-quality standards.”
Lower prices make more sense
There are times when a top-tier tire may be a consideration, Pereira said, such when high mileage and low rolling resistance are important. But if a vehicle is getting closer to the end of its lease, then if the lease contract allows for it, outfitting it with less-expensive tires is more financially logical.
Cheaper tires also make more sense for vehicles that work in rough areas with high potential for tire damage.
It’s also important to consider the network along with the tire, Pereira said, and many less-expensive brands offer the same level of customer service as top-tier.
He recommends looking at national account availability; the emergency service network; the warranty, including the ability to deal with a local sales or manufacturer representative if you need to resolve any issues; and the product selection, including different applications, multiple compounds for various applications, and if it’s applicable to your fleet, Smartway product availability.
The relationship with your dealer
Also look at the tire’s total life cycle if you retread, to be sure it can be retreaded or is a throwaway carcass; at how the tire rides and handles, including in inclement weather; and your own fleet maintenance practices.
“In the case of almost all brands, quality is table stakes. Fleet managers have so much information available to them via the Internet. Trusting your tire vendor to provide you with the right tire for your needs is very important. Share your tire budget for tires and service, and ask how your provider can help you meet or optimize your budget, Pereira added.
“Do they provide mileage reports, fleet surveys, scrap tire analysis, non-retreadable tire reports? Developing a relationship where your tire vendor becomes a trusted consultant, rather than just a salesperson, provides true value.”