Addressing Basic Issues – Sometimes not so….Easy

Basics. Yup, I said it again, BASICS! I am a big fan of the power of basics when it comes to sports, weekend DIY projects, safety….and data. But don’t be fooled, just because a task is basic, or the required response is basic,it doesn’t always mean the solution is easy. You thought I was going to say basic again didn’t you?

In just the last month, Revvo has collected data from over 20 million tire rotations, every single rotation of a tire, data is collected — it’s A LOT of data. Of course, Revvo captures data when tires are at rest too. Pump the brakes here for a second, rather than jumping into details of the data we’ve collected and chatting about tables, charts, graphs, and trends we have seen, let’s not lose track of the purpose of this blog — basics!

So, what are the basics I speak of….in this case, taking action on low tire pressure conditions. Putting my fleet manager hat back on, the first thing that comes to mind is “Service Level Agreements” (SLA). For those of you not familiar with this term, it’s fairly simple and I really like the way RTA Fleet Management described this, it is an “agreement which outlines services provided and the expectations of you [Fleet Management] and your customer.”

Assuming your tires don’t suffer any punctures, and ambient temperatures stay the same 24 hours a day, your tires will still lose air to the tune of “1–3 PSI per month.” But we all know that your vehicles will pick up nails or two along the road, and temperatures don’t stay the same. Indeed, tires don’t care about ambient temperatures, or slow leaks, but you should! Whether a tire operates for a few days or a few weeks at lower PSIs, every rotation outside of the ideal cold pressure inflation and operating pressure will contribute to the accelerated degradation of the tire casing.

Interestingly, of the several service level agreements I have reviewed, there is virtually no mention of who is responsible for the general maintenance of tires in between shop visits, specifically, tire inflation. Some agreements do specify that customers need to check tire pressure, but don’t go as far as stating they are required to inflate. When considering the lack of specific instruction as it relates to one of the most expensive line items in a fleet’s budget, it’s concerning. And, let me be crystal clear and transparent here, I also failed to address this issue during my fleet management years.

Having said that, assuming those responsibilities are fully illustrated and defined, the operational challenges start to emerge. Do we have a compressor? Is the compressor mobile? Do we have an air hose, a gauge? And so, back to my original thought in this blog, inflating a tire is simple, in a fleet environment with certain roles and responsibilities passed on to the vehicle users, inflating them is sometimes not so easy.

I challenge you to review your SLAs and customer service agreements. Yes, asking your vehicle users to actually inflate tires and go one step beyond simply checking them may seem like a huge operational nightmare….and the pushback could be enormous. The reality is, those drivers most likely own a vehicle so they know how to check a tire, given the right tools, they should also inflate them. As an organization, it is probably within your right to ask them to inflate a tire if it’s low on pressure, after all, we ask them to put on a seat belt for their safety, why shouldn’t we ask them to inflate a tire with known low pressure?

Pre and Post Trip Inspections

I’ve met very few fleet managers over the course of my fleet career that felt comfortable with current pre and post trip inspections. Actually, the most common response I get is some sort of a laugh or giggle when asking about pre and post trip inspections…indicating little faith in the current inspection program. That chuckle however, seems to go away when the next question is asked about tires and pre/post trip inspections — “how confident are you that none of the vehicles subject to these inspections left the yard with low tire pressure?”

You may have heard me say this in the past, an early lesson I learned from my fleet mentor was a valuable one, “it’s the basic things, or the lack of knowledge about basic things that seem to get fleet managers in trouble.” For example, in the previous fleet I managed, I knew we had about about 2038 vehicles (depending on vehicles incoming or outgoing), about 320 marked police vehicles, fleet consumed about 1.2 million gallons of unleaded gasoline and 800,000 gallons of diesel fuel, we had 38 technicians with a few vacancies in every shop….many more basic (and more detailed facts) I could regurgitate at anytime to demonstrate I had a good understanding of our operation. Basic questions came up often from upper management, on the spot in meetings, not having answers was simply not acceptable.

The complexity of the fleet management job increases as technology evolves, but the core, albeit now basic, data stays the same. If technology is used to your advantage, access to basic data can be very powerful. Take for example the early days of Telematics, knowledge of idle time made a huge impact, yet that data is basic stuff. What about tire pressure? Yup, basic stuff. But knowing that basic data everyday, in real-time, makes it easier to keep drivers safe, vehicles within compliance, and help avoid expensive roadcalls, tow bills, and reduce disruption to productivity.

Say for example you could receive a daily pre and post trip tire inspection report. You’d have at your fingertips access to compliance related tire issues. Even more interesting, what if you could receive a report everyday to indicate actions that need to be taken on specific tires in your fleet before they go out on the road that day. At the Move America Virtual Conference earlier this month, Jeff Kaelin, Vice President of Avis Budget Group nailed this when he said “even something as simple as tire pressure…it doesn’t grab headlines, but instead of having to check every tire on every vehicle, we have 600,000 vehicles and 2.4 million tires, the ability to know which 2,350 need your attention, is a really impressive change in the way you manage a business.”

Sometimes the biggest positive impacts to your fleet can be delivered by making simple adjustments in response to new data. I agree 100% — data alone isn’t the answer to solving problems or making meaningful adjustments. DataAnalytics, and Action is the recipe for success. A basic requirement of new technology in this data age should be data that is processed for you that proposes next steps with clear actions. This is at the core of Revvo Tire Management Platform, processed data with clear action. Tire problems happen out on the road, not in your shop. Have eyes on your tires in between shop visits. Be Proactive! Check out Revvo’s Tire Management Platform!

32nds of an Inch…How valuable are they to you?

“Pull them off and send them to retread.” That’s what the technician thinks as they inspect truck tires with low-ish tread depth. And they’re right — that’s exactly what they should do in order to keep the truck on the road and save their fleet time and money. But are you, the fleet manager, arming your technicians with the right tools and technology to safely get the most miles out of your fleet’s tires? You see, there is a fine and difficult line between pulling tires too soon and pulling them too late…and it’s costing you money. Let’s chat about that.

Fleets should predetermine their pull points based on their specific applications. For example, many fleets pull tires for retreading when the tread is at 4/32” or 5/32”. These depth measurements will also vary based on tire position. For example, steer tires must be pulled out of service at 4/32, while drive and trailer tires can be pulled at the lower 2/32”. Ok, good. Easy! Right?

Well… let me bring this into the real world for a minute: what do you think is the appropriate decision for a technician to make when both steer tires (virgin tires) have 7/32” of tread during today’s shop visit (4/32” is the pull point policy for his fleet), suspension is tight, and the next shop visit is in 90 days? Think, think, think…..ummmmmm, pull the tires…no, wait — leave them on….

See! Not as easy as you thought. Let’s talk dollars and use the following costs as an example:

Well, the technician has two choices, pull them off (Decision A), or leave them on(Decision B). If he goes with Decision A, he is essentially pulling the tires off too soon and increasing the per unit cost (cost per 1/32”). The example above represents the cost per 1/32” if you could actually consume all 1/32”, but with the recommended pull point at 4/32, the amount you can actually consume is 19/32”, with an actual cost per 1/32” of $39.47. Decision A would result in throwing away $118.41 worth of perfectly good tread, resulting in less miles traveled and increasing the total cost of ownership of that truck. What if this happened hundreds of times a year? And don’t forget, the same cycle repeats itself on retreaded tires because there is a cost to each 1/32” of a retreaded tire too, albeit a smaller cost than a virgin tire. On the flip side, if he chooses Decision B and leaves them on, he risks losing a good casing and ending up with a non-retreadable tire, also increasing total cost of ownership. (Quick side note, the number one cause of damage to tire casings is heat caused by underinflation.)

So where am I going with all this? The point is, technicians make decisions everyday that impact your fleet’s cost. If the technician above could somehow know that this truck would be ok if he pulled the steer tires during the next shop visit because this truck only averages a consumption of 2/32” tread depth between shop visits, he would have safely maximized the tire life while lowering his tire costs. But, it is almost impossible for a technician to make that decision without this very specific data and risk operating on dangerously low tread depth and or losing a casing. Just as fleets have modified preventive maintenance intervals based on oil changes and other factors, maybe you should consider a data driven tire platform to help transition your preventative maintenance program to a predictive maintenance program. Tread consumption happens out on the road, not in your shop. Have eyes on your tires in between shop visits. Be Proactive! Check out Revvo’s Tire Management Platform!

Preventive Maintenance – A Continuous Improvement

10,608. That’s the number of work orders the City of Norfolk Fleet Management completed while I served as fleet manager during fiscal year 2017. I’ll be the first to admit that our ratio of scheduled to unscheduled work orders was nowhere near where it needed to be, but it was a work in progress. 

61,017, that’s the number of work orders completed by City of Nashville Fleet Management between February 1, 2015 and January 31, 2017 as shown by a recent audit.1 That’s quite a bit of work. But you know what else that is? That’s a lot of time. 

As any good manager knows, process improvement is always on the top of your mind. Where are the efficiencies hiding? How can we take a process with an average completion time of 55 minutes and make it a 51 minute process? A 49 minute process? All without sacrificing quality of work.

One of my favorite examples of continuous improvement is illustrated quite well by Steve Saltzgiver with Mercury Associates. Mercury Associates is a fleet management consulting firm that provides technical assistance to fleets in the US and around the world. Saltzgiver demonstrates a Preventative Maintenance (PM) mapping process workflow and shows how to make that process more efficient. As Saltzgiver writes, “Shops can significantly improve their scheduled maintenance programs by streamlining the preventive maintenance inspection step-by-step sequence to remove non-value-added waste. This is best achieved by using a tool called ‘value stream mapping,’ coupled with an illustration”2 as shown below.

Now let’s talk specifically about tires and the PM process.

Let’s assume that the City of Nashville fleet crew performed tire checks on about half of the total 61,017 work orders…. so that’s 30,508 tire checks performed. In addition, it’s worth noting that the audit of the City of Nashville Fleet Management found that “Tires, Tubes, Liners, and Valves” was by far the most common type of work order completed. Assuming each of those 30,508 tire checks included a visual inspection, tire pressure check, tread depth measurement, and the follow-on recording of those findings into a Fleet Management Information System (FMIS), and took an average of 5 minutes to complete, that’s 152,540 minutes, or 2,542 hours, doing tire checks. At an hourly technician rate of $25/hr not including benefits, that $63,550.

Were those 2,542 hours (or $63,550) well spent over those 2 years? Who knows. Was recording that data even valuable if you can’t use it for reporting? And that’s assuming you even have an FMIS report focusing on tires! Was any of that data reliable? After all, we do all know how unreliable manually-recorded fuel mileage has been during fuel transactions.

Even with Saltzgiver’s Picasso-like illustration on process improvement, he still recommends ongoing revisions to the process. “Shop management,” he says, “must invest time in updating and revising inspection checklists, technician training programs, shop policies and procedures, standard repair timetables, and data capture methods to reflect the newly optimized PMI program changes from the value stream mapping event.”3

I’ll propose one process improvement. Imagine you could take a significant amount of work out of tire checks by automating that process. Better yet – what if your tires were continuously monitored between shop visits so that even tire issues that are impossible to identify with the naked eye can be highlighted and identified for further investigation?

A good tire check in the shop can help reduce tire problems when you’re lucky enough to catch them. But all bets are off when your vehicles are out on the roads. Even a highly attentive driver who performs scrupulous pre and post trip inspections can’t catch everything. After all, try asking a fleet manager the level of confidence they have in tire checks being performed during pre and post trip inspections. I’ve asked, and I usually get a good laugh out of it. Tire problems happen in between shop visits, not in your shop. Have eyes on your tires in between shop visits. Be Proactive! Check out Revvo’s Tire Management Platform!


Overloading – More to it than just Weight

Just the other day, I was on my way back home when I came across something that really bothered me. A homeowner along the road must have been doing some spring cleaning or massive purging, but all that matters is that they had a massive pile of trash out on collection day. While it was neatly organized in a line along the road, there must have been trash lined up for about 20-25 yards. We are not talking bags of leaves, no, there were carpets, furniture, trash bags, and a bunch of other stuff. Look, he may have scheduled a bulk pick up, but based on the fact that quite a bit of it was in trash cans, I am not thinking that was the case. 

Did I mention I live in Florida? Well, this is important. For anyone that has been in Florida as it starts to warm up, they will know that thunderstorms pop up often, and when they do, they can dump lots of rain very quickly. Well, this trash drive-by occurred on one of those days, by the time I made it to my driveway, about 10 minutes later, it was raining sideways. As a previous fleet manager that worked closely with our solid waste leadership team, I know the impact wet trash has on weight. Do you? I’ll be happy to explain.  

One gallon of water weighs 8.345 lbs, that’s just a fact.1 What’s a little harder to pin down is how much garbage will weigh after it soaks up some rain….I’ll make some assumptions. Let’s assume that the trash in front of that person’s home weighed 1,000 lbs dry. After that massive downpour, let’s say the trash absorbed and collected water in the garbage cans. For that 1,000 lbs of dry trash and water collected in the trash cans to now weigh an additional 250 lbs, just shyof 30 gallons of water would have needed to hitch a ride on to the garbage truck. Did it happen, I don’t know. Is it possible based on the amount of trash and rain that feel out of the sky, probably. 

As that truck went along the rest of it’s route that day, there is a good chance that it collected more wet trash and exceeded its weight capacity causing all types of issues. Accelerated wear on the pavement, excessive load on the tires and other truck components, and an increased potential of an accident. You’re probably reading this post and thinking about the impact of excessive load on tires, so let’s talk more tires. 

Underinflation and/or over loading of a tire causes excessive heat build-up and internal structural damage. This may cause a tire failure, including tread/belt separation, even at a later date, which can lead to an accident and serious personal injury or death.2 You see, a tire failure directly related to a tire overloading event is possible, but not likely. Much like a boxer, you get punched multiple times over the course of a fight, but it’s that one punch that lands in just the right spot that sends you to the mat.Tires are the same way, the event that severely damages and causes a tire to fail may not be nearly as harsh as all the other events that happened before. 

What is a particular concern is the combination of low tire pressure and heavy loads. Worst case scenario for the tire, it fails. Worst case scenario for the organization tire fails, downtime, property damage, personal injury, or even worse. Keeping an eye on the combination of tire pressure, increasing load on the tire, and temperature of a tire would be ideal. What if a combination of all of those factors established a new threshold alerting the operation and the driver that it’s time to head to the transfer station or send out a new truck to finish the route? 

The problem is, there are programs out there that track the weight of trucks in real-time, but they are expensive and difficult to calibrate. There are auto tire inflators but they respond to tire pressure only. What if there was a way to combine all of this with one solution focusing on one of the most expensive and hard to monitor components of your fleets – tires. There is. Tire problems happen out on the road, not in your shop. Have eyes on your tires in between shop visits. Be Proactive! Check out Revvo’s Tire Management Platform!



Tread Depth – Depth Matters

It wasn’t my intention to have a career in the automotive industry, but it happened that way and I could not be happier. My career started off at a family owned mechanic shop in Northern Virginia where we were a Virginia Safety Inspection Station. The Motor Vehicle Safety Inspection was a safety check performance annually by state certified technicians that would inspect several components of the vehicle, tires were a major source of failing inspections. One of the rules related to tires requires each tire to have at least 2/32” of tread depth at the time of inspection, otherwise it fails. Many Virginians felt that this was just a way for the shops to make money, and yes, it created some business, but the intention was safety. I often discussed with customers the dangers of lower tread depth, but recent studies really illustrate the risk of lower tread depth. Some of those are – increased likelihood to be involved in an accident, increased stopping distance, and hydroplaning. Let’s discuss.

Increased Likelihood of Being Involved in an Accident

In a study conducted in 2012 by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, vehicles that were involved in tire-related crashes were arranged into 4 different categories, 0-2/32”, 3/32”-4/32”, 5/32”-6/32”, and 7/32”+. In that study, tires with tread depth in the range of 0-2/32”, were observed to experience tire problems in the pre-crash phase 3 times more than vehicles with the tread depth range of 3-4/32”.1 Also worth noting that in the tread depth range of 3-4/32” compared to tread depth range of 5-6/32”, vehicles were observed to have 2 times more tire related problems in the pre-crash phase. 

Increased Stopping Distances 

    If you follow any racing series that compete in the rain, you probably already know that many races are won solely based on tire strategy. Most of the time, race cars will have tires with no tread to maximize grip during dry racing, but if rain is in the forecast during the race, timing is everything when it comes to swapping from dry to wet tires. Most racing series can also make a pit stop, swap tires, and top off their fuel in less than 20 seconds. Unfortunately, not all of us have that luxury when we are out for a drive so keeping an eye on tread depth and planning for tire replacements in your fleet is important. 

There are some pretty alarming statistics around accidents and stopping distance on wet surfaces. According to the Federal Highway Administration, on average, there are over 5,891,000 accidents annually, 21% of those (nearly 1,235,000) are weather related.2 Furthermore, of those 1,235,000 accidents, 70% of those accidents occurred on wet pavement, while a much smaller amount were attributed to winter weather conditions – only 18%.3 Sure, there are a variety of reasons for crashes on wet pavement, but stopping distances on lower tread depth certainly played a role.


               As referenced above, the law in Virginia requires a minimum tread depth of 2/32” to pass inspection, but in tests conducted by Consumer Reports, it was found that tires can give up a significant amount of grip at 50% tread.Furthermore, a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration showed that 50% of the 11,500 cars, pickup trucks, vans, and sport-utility vehicles the agency checked had at least one tire with half worn tread and another 10% had at least one bald tire.5 

    Much like a boat comes out of the water and glides on the surface as it increases speed, tires with lower tread depth also have less contact with wet surfaces at higher speeds. That problem is amplified in tires with lower tread depth because the groves between the tires are not as deep and cannot channel the water through the tires as fast. In the image below, Consumer Reports demonstrated how a tire is more susceptible to hydroplaning on a wet surface the faster it goes. Interestingly, or should I say, more troubling, the images of those tires are new tires traveling at 20 MPH on the left picture (full tire/ground contact), 40 MPH in the middle picture, and 60 MPH on the right picture.   

What’s The Big Deal

    So why does all of this matter? We can assume that if a tire doesn’t fail prematurely, most tires will make it to a tread depth of less than 4/32 of an inch…and probably even 2/32 of an inch. As vehicle owners or fleet operators, the goal is to extend the life of the tire as much as possible BEFORE it hits 4/32 of an inch. The reality is, tire maintenance has always been a reactive maintenance item for most. Sure, you can be proactive, rotate tires and do alignments on certain maintenance intervals. The problem is, tires don’t operate on a schedule. Tire pressures fluctuate with ambient temperature. The load on tires changes quite a bit. Road surface conditions are unforgiving. Pot holes don’t care. Drivers are always in a hurry to accelerate and then stop. We know tire tread will be consumed, there is nothing we can do about that. But better understanding how that tread is being consumed and maintenance actions we can take to extend tread life is critical not only to safety, but important when it comes to controlling tire spend. Have eyes on your tires in between shop visits. Be Proactive! Check out Revvo’s Tire Management Platform!