Guest Post: Should You Get Low Rolling Resistance Tyres for Your Fleet?

CEO of United Tires, Mike Skoropad, writes for Vimcar: is it worth investing in your fleet with low rolling resistance tyres?
Man holding low rolling resistance tyres

Low rolling resistance tyres are being heavily marketed to fleet managers due to their potential to increase fuel efficiency through the lifetime of their use.

While it is true that low rolling resistance tyres can reduce fuel consumption, sometimes as much as 6.28% over the lifetime of their use, these potential savings come with two attached risks. 

These are:

  1. That low rolling resistance tyres are more expensive than standard tyres
  2. Low rolling resistance tyres have a shorter tread life than standard tyres.

This makes the decision to switch your fleet over to low roll resistance tyres a long-term investment, with many factors affecting the potential ROI of this decision.

We will now go over some of the factors that affect the potential ROI of moving to low rolling resistance tyres, in order to determine whether such a switch is right for your fleet.

1. The proportion of fuel costs to your total expenditure

Low rolling resistance tyres only save you money in one way: by increasing the fuel efficiency of your vehicles.

Fuel pump

Therefore, the switch to these tyres only makes sense if you believe that unnecessary fuel consumption is a major inefficiency in your current operations.

You can calculate this by looking at the amount you spend each year on fuel as a factor of your total operating expenditure. If this figure is over 60%, then there is a good chance that your fleet is operating in a fuel-inefficient manner, and a switch to low rolling resistance tyres can reduce this inefficiency.

If the figure stands at under 60%, then you will likely save more money by improving other aspects of your operations. Although the switch to low rolling resistance tyres can still save you money in these circumstances it should not be a priority.

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2. The terrain that your fleet typically travels on

Low rolling resistance tyres offer the greatest potential fuel cost savings for on-highway fleets.

Low rolling resistance tyre on a bumpy road

This is because the proportion of energy lost due to rolling resistance increases as a factor of a vehicle’s speed. Therefore, the higher the average speed of a fleet, the greater the potential savings are from low rolling resistance tyres.

In addition to this, low rolling resistance tyres offer poorer grip and traction compared to standard tyres. Therefore if your fleet travels on routes with a mixed terrain then the switch to low rolling resistance tyres may be a non-starter.

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3. How stringently would you maintain your low rolling resistance tyres?

Given the increased upfront costs of low rolling resistance tyres, drivers need to ensure that they are kept in optimal conditions in order to maximize their ROI.

As far as tyre and fleet maintenance is concerned, nothing is more important than keeping your tyres at optimal pressure. This may sound trivial, but a study by Continental found that 34% of a fleet’s tyres are regularly underinflated.

Driving on underinflated tyres negates the benefits of low rolling resistance tyres in two ways.

Mechanic maintaining a low rolling resistance tyre

Firstly, underinflation shortens the already decreased lifespan of low rolling resistance tyres. As the tyres are more expensive to begin with, an increased rate of replacement will put an even larger dent in your potential ROI.

Secondly, underinflation increases rolling resistance. Therefore the fundamental benefit that you derive from switching up your tyres is lost. Putting procedures in place that ensure that drivers keep their vehicle’s tyres at optimal inflation will often be a cheaper way of reducing your fuel costs than switching to low rolling resistance tyres.

Only when such procedures are in place, and you are tracking inflation in all your vehicles, should you consider the switch to more efficient tyres.

4. How efficient is the maintenance function of your fleet?

Given that one of the drawbacks of low rolling resistance tyres is that they need to be replaced more regularly than standard tyres, fleet companies should not only consider the costs of extra tyres themselves, but also the cost of having them replaced.

For smaller companies, who do not have in-house maintenance and technical teams, the cost of having tyres regularly replaced (in addition to the cost of the tyres themselves) may be a significant factor in the total cost of ownership of low rolling resistant tyres.

5. How much upfront cost can you afford for your low rolling resistance tyres?

There are two distinct types of low rolling resistant tyres. These are:

  1. Tyres that have reduced rolling resistance in virtue of having reduced tread alone
  2. Tyres that have reduced rolling resistance in virtue of the materials that they are made from.
Handing money over

Out of these two types of low rolling resistance, we would only recommend the latter. Tyres that have reduced rolling resistance in virtue of their diminished tread depth lack the durability for fleet use.

The latter type of tyres are far more expensive than the former. Consequentially, we would only recommend switching to low rolling resistance tyres if you are able to afford to roll out the more expensive range of tyres across your fleet.

Going for a more affordable set of low rolling resistance tyres is simply a false economy.

A final note on low rolling resistance tyres

Calculating the ROI of low rolling resistant tyres is only possible if you are tracking metrics like fuel expenditure, maintenance costs, and driver behavior.

Failure to track these things means you are “shooting blind” when it comes to any investments into your fleet. Before putting down a large sunk cost like the transition to low rolling resistance tyres, we would recommend that you have such expense tracking in place so you know how and where you can save money on your fleet.

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