The Pressure to Offset Rising Costs
Inflation is top of mind for everyone in the construction industry, as prices have increased for everything from softwood to steel. Rising costs have put enormous pressure on today’s construction companies, and have challenged them to adopt new tactics to prevent escalating expenses from eating into their margins, reducing their liquidity, and ultimately hurting their profitability.
Inflation is also a strategy construction businesses can employ to fight rising costs—the inflation pressure of their equipment's tires, that is.
Tire Inflation and Construction Operating Costs
Maintaining proper tire inflation on construction equipment is essential to increasing the service life of tires while also helping to optimize the performance, productivity, and fuel efficiency of the equipment itself. Tire inflation also contributes to the stability and safety of machinery, as well as the comfort of operators—the lack of which can result in unplanned or unaccounted for expenses and underperformance.
Tires are the third-largest operating cost on wheeled heavy equipment (behind labor and fuel) and even small steps to improve their lifespan can deliver big rewards to construction business owners and fleet managers. When the other benefits provided by properly inflated tires are accounted for, it’s easy to see how inflation pressure can help make up some of the ground lost to economic inflation.
Both Big and Small Companies Are Affected by Tire Inflation
It’s easy to think that the gains produced by properly inflated tires are most beneficial for companies with large fleets, given the cumulative effect of the incremental gains they produce. However, the advantages of proper inflation are equally beneficial to small operations, which often lack the cash reserves, big budgets, and wiggle room of their larger competitors. For smaller construction businesses, even modest savings or cost cuts can add up to a huge relief when times are tight.
Tire Inflation Pressure Affects Profits
There are a number of ways the inflation pressure of construction equipment tires impacts construction businesses, including their profitability. After all, the true cost of a tire isn’t what you pay for it at the dealer, it’s what it costs per hour or per ton moved over its life, all of which operating tires at the correct air pressure can help improve.
Properly Inflated Tires Last Longer
One of the best things construction businesses and fleets can do to extend the life of their tires and control their tire spend is to ensure that their tires are inflated to the proper air pressure. Both underinflated and overinflated tires can lead to uneven wear and shorten tire life. Keep in mind:
- a tire that is underinflated by 10% will lose about 10% of its service life
- a tire that is overinflated by 10% will lose approximately 5% of its lifespan
Those are no small sums considering it can cost thousands to equip machines like wheel loaders, telehandlers, and articulated trucks with new tires. Furthermore, any tire that is operated at 20% below optimal inflation pressure is considered flat. A flat tire requires removal and inspection before it can go back into service. At best, a tire operated under 20% optimal inflation leads to downtime. At worst, it can lead to tire failure. Either way, a flat tire can result in unwanted, expensive, and long-lasting issues.
Improved Operator Comfort, Performance, and Retention
A tire provides its best stability, handling, and ride comfort when it’s operated at the correct air pressure. This goes a long way toward keeping operators happy, healthy, and productive—and ultimately profitable. It’s hard to quantify just how much money properly inflated tires save construction businesses and fleets by improving conditions for operators, but it’s easy to conclude that it’s a sizeable sum.
Retaining employees is one of the best strategies organizations can take to lower costs. For example, studies suggest the total cost of losing an employee can range from tens of thousands of dollars to between one-and-a-half and two times their annual salary. Another consideration is that skilled operators can use 10-12% less fuel every day than unskilled ones.
Also worth noting is that the extra shocks and jolts produced by improperly inflated tires aren’t just bad for operators, they’re also bad for equipment and can lead to increased maintenance and subsequent extra expenses.
Increased Traction and Fuel Efficiency
Radial construction tires have grown in popularity in recent years. Radial tires are engineered to operate at specific inflation pressure for the loads they carry, the distance they cover, and the speeds they travel. When radials are operated at the incorrect pressure, they fail to produce their ideal footprint and consequently don’t deliver the maximum amount of traction. This costs construction business owners in a multitude of ways.
- Decreased traction: A radial not delivering its optimal footprint is not operating at its most productive. Proper tire pressure is essential for everything from carrying heavy loads to moving on hilly sites to operating in challenging terrains like sand or mud. Simply put, when machines aren’t operating at their best, a business is losing money.
- Wasted fuel: A lack of traction is perhaps the most notable characteristic of an improperly inflated radial. However, that lack of traction costs construction businesses more than productivity, it also adds up to the use of extra fuel. For example, every time a machine slips or spins, it’s burning fuel unnecessarily.
- Reduced horsepower: Tires are responsible for transferring the horsepower of a machine to the ground—an area where radials excel. If a radial is inflated improperly, a machine isn’t putting all its power to the ground and you’re paying for a machine you’re not taking full advantage of.
Generally, radial tires cost more upfront than bias tires, but over the long haul, they can cost considerably less and offer another way to control costs. Simply, you can save more overall by investing a little more up-front in radial tires. Even better, radial tires like our Galaxy AT Grip Steel and Alliance MultiUse 550 are priced competitively with bias-ply tires, which makes this a great time to switch equipment such as skid steers and backhoes to cost-effective radials.
Tire Inflation Tips
The more regularly the inflation pressure of tires is checked and adjusted, the better—aspire for daily, aim for weekly, and know the better you are about it, the more money you’ll find in your pocket at the end of the year.
It’s important to check the pressure in tires when they’re “cold,” because as a tire works, it builds up heat and increases inflation pressure. It can take large OTR tires anywhere from 12 to 24 hours to cool down completely. Consequently, the best time to check inflation pressure is at the beginning of the day before the machine has run.
If you’re unsure how to calculate optimal tire pressure, consult your tire dealer for assistance.
Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America
The right tire for the right job is another way construction businesses and fleet managers can fight against inflation. Yokohama Off-Highway Tires America’s (YOHTA) Alliance, Galaxy, and Primex brand tires deliver application-specific tires for nearly every machine on the job site, helping improve productivity, reduce downtime, cut fuel costs, and improve profitability. Contact your local YOHTA dealer or rep to learn more about our application-specific offerings and how they can help your business battle rising costs.