Tracking tire costs: fractions of a cent add up

How much are you spending on tires? Sharpen a pencil and figure your cost per tire mile, and you may find that a fraction of a cent per mile can add up to a lot of dollars. The difference might be in the tires you buy.

A typical motorcoach operator will spend half a cent per tire mile, while $0.0045 is considered an optimum expense. But extend the calculation to the typical range of six tires and the difference could be $300.

“For a $550 tire with a $50 casing value divided by a 100,000-mile tire average, the cost per tire mile would be $0.005, said Bill Kaiser, president of Motorcoach Tire Sales of Columbus, Georgia. “The cost can vary by tire type. The consensus of the 20 Groups (peer consulting organizations) I have spoken to is that the target cost should be around .0045 cents per tire mile.”

Your mileage may vary, of course.

“If you do a lot of your business in cities and are doing a lot of twisting and turning, you can have a higher cost per mile because the tires are wearing out quicker,” Kaiser said. “If you are doing more charters and line runs, your tires are going to wear longer.”

Motorcoach Tire Sales offers products from six manufacturers.

“There are so many more offerings now than there were 10 or 20 years ago. The industry has benefited from that,” Kaiser said. “Motorcoach Tire Sales offers both top-level brands and more value-priced brands. However, only 20-ply and 75-mph or higher speed rated brands are offered.”

Motorcoach Tire Sales recently added the Hankook, GITI and Magna brands to its lineup of Toyo, Yokohama and Pirelli tires. The brands include industry standards and what Kaiser calls “value brands.”

“The value brand tires are simply at a lower price point because they are not well known in the U.S., and they are being aggressive to try to get into the market. By no means does that mean they are not quality tires,” he said. “The company’s value brand offerings include some manufacturers that are lesser-known in the U.S. market but offer products that meet or exceed the ply and speed ratings required for motorcoach application. I want to ensure that there are low-price options for operators who wish to have that.”

Comparison shopping

“I encourage operators to try different brands to see which ones deliver the most mileage. Many operators purchase tires out of habit or the convenience of purchasing from a local dealer,” Kaiser said.

“Most local tire dealers are selling 99 percent of their tires to truck, waste and school bus companies,” he said. “I have seen instances when local tire dealers are selling tires that are not designed for use on motorcoaches. The tire size that motorcoaches use is the same that many waste companies use for their garbage trucks. Those tires are designed to carry a higher load but at a lower speed rating, typically 55 miles an hour.”

Direct shipments

Motorcoach Tire Sales ships tires from the manufacturer to the operator without an intermediate stop at the distributor warehouse.

“The brands I’ve chosen work with me on my direct-ship model. I feel that offers added value to our industry,” Kaiser said. “It is not even done in the trucking industry right now.

“Instead of having tires shipped twice, once to the brick-and-mortar dealer and then again to the user, the tires are shipped one time. I am not adding warehouse, employment, freight and inventory costs. That is reflected in the discount prices I am able to provide for the market.”

Considering retreads

“While retreads will lower your cost per mile, many operators fail to realize they are incurring extra liability,” Kaiser said. “If a retread fails while your coach is out of town and your passengers need to be put on another bus, the savings just went out the door.

“Secondly, if a retread comes off a bus and hits another vehicle or causes damage, the liability exposure increases tremendously. I know the owner of a tire dealership that had a retread come off a vehicle and hit a car. He was sued personally along with his tire dealership and, of course, the motorcoach fleet. A trucking fleet may have to use retreads, but a bus operator does not.”

Extra grip and mileage

Tires are more than a century old, but the technology continues to evolve.

“I encourage fleets to look at the extra-grip drive tires that are offered by several manufacturers,” Kaiser said. “It increases safety margins, particularly in bad weather. Extra-grip tires also carry a benefit of extended wear. They are typically 5- to 10-percent more expensive but can deliver 50-percent longer wear.”

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