Watching the wheels

End-to-end tire management reduces costs, manpower


With the economy forcing fleets to cut costs in all areas, executives and managers looking for savings in maintenance see tires as a big target. At more than $300 each, mistakes in purchasing and maintaining these assets can be costly. Information technology can help fleet managers make more informed data-driven decisions for planning tire purchases and refining their strategies to reduce tire costs.

Any general accounting software can be used to track tire costs as a total expense item. Fleet maintenance management software systems can track tire and labor costs on an individual vehicle basis. But to maximize visibility and control, tire management software systems now can capture the full range of tire-related information.

The Dossier Tire Management System from Arsenault Associates is designed to track tire-related costs from cradle to grave. From the moment a tire is placed onto a vehicle, the software tracks miles, air pressure and tread depth to determine a tire’s “per 32nd” tread-depth rate of wear.

Once the tire leaves the vehicle, the software tracks the quality and value of the casing and retread, says Charles Arsenault, chief executive officer. The software also updates the cost of the tire when it re-enters inventory as a retread (the retail cost minus its cap value).

Tire-tracking capabilities have been available for some time in Squarerigger Software’s flagship maintenance management product, SQ7, but the company says it has taken a new approach and designed an integrated tire management system – Revolution – which is slated for commercial release early this summer.

“We’ve developed this software application to tell management exactly what their tires are costing them – and, over time, what brand of tires are optimal for their specific fleet,” says Richard Koontz, a spokesperson for Squarerigger.

Software developers offer optional features to maximize efficiency of recording tire information. The Dossier Tire Management System can be deployed using a version called Pocket Dossier, which is designed to run on any handheld computer and utilize accessories such as barcode scanners and wireless networks. By adding the Dossier Tire Probe – an air gauge and tire probe enabled with Bluetooth wireless technology – technicians can record tire measurements electronically while they walk around a vehicle.

The mobile Pocket Dossier application automatically beeps if any air pressure or tread-depth reading falls below the proper threshold, Arsenault says. Technicians quickly can create a work order for a tire change, if needed, using the Pocket Dossier software.

For fleets that use the system, Arsenault recommends taking tire pressure and tread-depth measurements at least once a week, and no less than once a month.

Tire management software also can include a real-time element by using wireless communications and sensors onboard a vehicle to record and monitor tire air pressure and temperature while a vehicle is moving.

Stemco (www.stemco.com) says its Bat RF product line provides tire pressure and mileage information wirelessly – via a handheld, gate reader or vehicle tracking device – to its online tire management software system, WebBat RF. Fleets attach a small reader to each axle hub to track the inflation of each tire and its mileage. In addition to the alerts and reports available in WebBat RF, LED lights on the reader flash to alert drivers and fleet managers to underinflated tires.

In the next month, Stemco plans to complete an interface with mobile computing and wireless communications providers PeopleNet and SkyBitz. The interface will enable mutual customers to monitor tire pressure and mileage remotely, says Ken Veit, director of sales.

TireStamp (www.tirestamp.com) provides the TireVigil recordkeeping system designed to integrate with mobile communications systems and sensors onboard the vehicle to capture tire pressure and temperature in each tire. To interact with an onboard mobile communications device, TireVigil requires the installation of tire pressure sensors, a tire sensor receiver, antennae and a Tire Data Monitor.

Last year, TireStamp added a product for trailer tires, says Peggy Fisher, president. Tire data collected from both tractor and trailer is sent to the Web-based TireVigil program, a subscription-based service that provides fleets with alerts and reports based on continuous monitoring of tire data.

Squarerigger plans to release an addition to its Revolution software – the Tire Pressure Alert Monitoring System (TPAMS). This module is designed to give fleet managers a real-time view of all tires equipped with the appropriate hardware. Alerts for tires that are out of spec are sent in real time by coupling satellite- or cellular-based communication technologies with advanced tire pressure and temperature sensors, Koontz says.

FleetNet America, a company that manages breakdown services for fleets of all sizes and configurations, can monitor fault code information from its customers’ vehicles remotely. To do this, the company uses technology to integrate with onboard computing and communications systems, says Oren Summer, president.

Adding remote tire pressure monitoring to FleetNet America’s services is a possibility, but Summer has not found any technology that uses tire sensors and readers based on radio frequency (RF) technology that last the lifetime of the tire and vehicle. When this technology matures, Summer says FleetNet America easily can integrate tire data with its own software to notify customers and drivers proactively when tire maintenance is needed.

On a similar note, Arsenault says that no electronic tire monitoring system automatically reads tire tread depth. And wireless tire monitoring systems do not include the software functionality to manage tire inventory, track costs associated with tire repairs and create work orders, he says. Still, in the near future, Arsenault can see the day where Dossier will import air pressure data and alerts from real-time tire monitoring systems.

“That is the next step in automating this process,” he says.


Old Dominion selects PeopleNet
Old Dominion Freight Lines Inc. announced that it selected PeopleNet to provide onboard communications and fleet management solutions for its fleet of more than 5,100 trucks. Barry Craver, director of freight processing applications for the less-than-truckload carrier, says PeopleNet will be installed across Old Dominion’s fleet in local pickup-and-delivery operations for linehaul.

Old Dominion says it will continue to use handheld computers for their pickup-and-delivery drivers and will relay this same information through the PeopleNet unit in the truck, providing more powerful transmission, better reception and improved coverage. With PeopleNet onboard, Old Dominion will collect and process data from the truck and run other applications such as eDriver Logs, PeopleNet’s electronic onboard recorder application; Pacos, PeopleNet’s geofencing application; and PerformX, which monitors vehicle and driver performance.


In Brief
GE Asset Intelligence (www.ge.com/assetintelligence) introduced a GPS Mileage service for its VeriWise tracking product that does not require additional hardware. The new service is designed to provide more timely and accurate mileage data for trailer maintenance, as well as mileage-based billing for leasing companies.

Cadec Global (www.cadec.com) announced it had raised an additional $4 million from previous investor Thule Investments to strengthen its balance sheet and fuel further growth.

Xata Corp. (www.xata.com) said that Akron, Iowa-based Heyl Truck Lines is installing in its trucks Xata Navigation, powered by ALK CoPilot Truck and enabled with new TREQ color display units (CDUs).

TransCore (www.transcore.com) sold its GlobalWave satellite communications assets to SkyWave Mobile Communications. In addition, Inmarsat – a provider of global mobile satellite communications services – will make a 19 percent strategic investment in privately held SkyWave.

Cheetah Software (www.cheetah.com) says its optimization software now can integrate with Turnpike’s RouteTracker, an electronic onboard recorder that collects and reports vehicle statistics and automates compliance information.

PCS Software (www.pcssoft.com) released an online version of its Express Transportation Management Software system. The company’s software system includes fully integrated accounting, document imaging and log scanning, as well as Web-based driver dispatch and customer freight tracking.

Comdata Corp. (www.comdata.com) announced an alliance with software developer Regal Technologies to enable its customers to expand their corporate payment programs into the Microsoft Dynamics accounting suite.