When it seems like there’s always more money left at the end of the month, it’s worth taking a longer term perspective, particularly when it comes to buying items as essential to safety as tyres. Cheap ones will cost you more in the long term.

In the transport industry, managing operational costs closely is the difference between success and failure. With large volumes and big fleets, a matter of a few rands directly affect returns and ultimately profits. And tyres are the one area where a slightly higher capital spend on quality products is likely to deliver a greater return in terms of lower operational costs over the full lifetime of the Tyre.

Bridgestone SA Small Medium & Large Fleet Executive Vernon Slack points out that compromising on tyre quality is a massive long-term risk. “It isn’t just a question of the longer life you can expect from premium brands. It is also a question of the performance of that tyre over its lifespan. Quality tyres will deliver better grip, they will handle repeated loads and the stresses of the road better, they will retread better and they do contribute to a safer fleet.”

He agrees, however, that like many other industries, transport is under multiple pressures, but warns against the temptation to look for cost-cutting shortcuts. “Operators are facing major budget pressures, but it’s crucial to bear in mind that invoice price is just one component of tyre cost. Instead, consider total cost of ownership, which should also factor in the supplier’s value-add services and support network which helps keep your vehicles on the road.”

Slack acknowledges the creeping diesel price, high tolls, escalating driver wages and increasing cost of capital as factors with which transport operators must contend. There’s also no shortage of competition, which means securing business can depend on competitive costs; he says operators should advise their customers of their choice of quality products which underpin greater reliability and dependability.

“There are other factors too, such as deteriorating road conditions. When you’re using quality tyres with quality backing, your vehicles enjoy an advantage on these roads as they are less likely to suffer punctures or damage which will affect deliveries, and also in the longer term, better retread ability,” he notes.

Good support doesn’t just mean the availability of help on the road. It also means the availability of financial assistance to smooth cash flows render potentially difficult capital expenditure decisions easier. “Cash flow is a challenge for all businesses and we do our best to help our customers address challenges of this nature,” Slack says.

No price on safety

There’s no shortage of examples of poorly maintained or equipped heavy vehicles being involved in catastrophic accidents which come with massive human cost and property damage. Slack says responsible transport operators are acutely aware of this reality. “Cost cutting on equipment which is essential to the safe operation of a vehicle is never advisable. There is always a higher price to pay later. If you’re lucky, it could be tyres which wear out prematurely. If you aren’t, it could be vehicles which have left the road, leaving a load undelivered – and potentially far more serious consequences.”

When it comes to tyres, quality also means manufacturers are doing more than just churning out rubber. There are also investments in research and development, some of it into the materials that go into a tyre. Some of it goes into investigating better ways of tracking performance in the field and delivering support when and where it is required. “At Bridgestone we are seeing the rewards of such investments and are today enjoying the number one international brand ranking, an accolade we share with our customers,” says Slack.

“Quality also includes a reliable network of service providers working off an audited service menu, using the latest technology tools to make sure tyre trouble doesn’t stop those wheels turning,” he says.

For example, tyre-pressure monitoring technology is being used to alert drivers and control room staff about tyres which might need attention. This raises the possibility of proactive maintenance, sorting out a tyre before it bursts or shreds, and saving plenty by improving on-time delivery and eliminating replacement costs. And experimental Internet of Things (IoT) applications for the tyre industry are being examined: the IoT will allow tyres to report a range of data straight into your control room.

Combined with the data from multiple transporters and analysed by powerful software, Slack says this could soon deliver the capability to predict tyre failure before it happens, schedule maintenance intelligently and provide in-depth financial management of tyre lifecycles. “More accurate data from analytics will allow for quicker and more precise business decisions to drive costs down and improve efficiency all round,” he notes.

Slack argues that quality is the foundation of a sustainable, responsible and prosperous transport operation. “When your tread offers better grip and lasts longer, and when your tyre casing is tougher to handle road conditions and retreads better, the cost of the product over the full lifecycle is competitive. But what price would you put on safety?”

But quality has an overhead which should be applied regardless of the tyres selected. He explains: “Even the best tyres need regular maintenance. That means checking pressures regularly as an integral part of overall vehicle maintenance. Tyres are part of a system; suspension components affect wear and performance and so should be appropriately maintained.”