National Connections, Local Ownership
National Connections, Local Ownership

Clark: Impact of tires on fuel economy and operating costs

Originally appeared in Fleet Owner

I have not written about tires in a while, but I saw it was a topic discussed at American Trucking Association’s Management Conference & Exhibition last month. That prompted me to start thinking about tires again.

Tires are essential to a truck, but I think they sometimes don’t get the attention they deserve. Tire pressure is supposed to be checked during pre- and post-trip inspections, but tires sometimes get a cursory check, especially the inside tire in a dual tire configuration.

The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration  reports that half of on-road breakdowns are tire-related. Underinflated tires may not cause all of those breakdowns, but I suspect they contribute to a large number of  them.

In addition to putting trucks on the side of the road, underinflated tires result in a massive ding to fuel economy. It is estimated that there is a drop in fuel mileage of about 0.2% for every 1 psi drop in the recommended tire pressure. Underinflated tires can cause excess heat to build up, which can cause irregular wear and affect fuel economy.

According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average diesel price was $4.366 per gallon on Nov. 6. The American Transportation Research Institute’s Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking in 2023 found that tires account for 2% of a fleet’s operating budget, but fuel represents 28% of operating costs.

Anything that reduces miles per gallon of diesel will significantly impact a fleet’s bottom line.

While tires are a fairly basic truck component, they can significantly impact fuel economy and operating costs. Paying close attention to inflation pressures can improve fuel efficiency and keep operating costs in check.