One of the most valuable and critical assets on a school bus is its tires. They impact factors beyond just drivability, such as fuel efficiency and safety on the road. With that in mind, tire maintenance involves much more than simply replacing tires when they start showing significant wear and tear.
Telematics and retreading go a long way in contributing to keeping school bus tires running smoothly. Flexible tires and tire monitoring solutions can help increase the life of the tire from its first run, by extending the casing life for retreading and delivering better fuel efficiency to save districts money on fuel costs, Continental Tires officials told School Bus Fleet.
“Every school district will be different as to how hard they are on their buses’ tires — the type of roads, obstacles encountered, weather conditions, and how the driver operates the bus, all come into play to determine a tire’s life,” Phil Mosier, manager of commercial tire development for Cooper Tires, told SBF. “It’s a tough application for tires, but with proper tire selection and maintenance practices, your tires can reach their full potential in miles and in retreads.”
There are several key steps for an effective tire maintenance program, but one of the most important is regularly monitoring tire inflation pressures — that’s where telematics systems come in.
For example, says Coy Jones, a senior operational marketing manager at Michelin North America, if an alert from one of these systems is sent saying that a tire is below the set pounds per square inch (PSI) threshold, then air is applied to restore it to operational specifications.
Whether school districts are using new or retread tires, having the proper air pressure not only enhances tire performance, but also helps boost safety.
“It can extend the life of the tire by reducing irregular wear or could avoid a potential road failure if a leak is caused by a foreign object such as a nail,” Jones adds.
This, in turn, helps fleets realize the full life of the tire and provides the option to retread the tire or sell the casing.
Double Coin Tires offers a mobile application to serve as an inflation guide and dealer directory for school bus operators. Users can obtain 24/7 mobile access to recommended tire inflation pressures for all Double Coin tires. The app, available through the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store, also allows users to calculate tire load limits for dual- and single-axle applications based on tire size and pressure, according to the manufacturer.
Continental Tires makes three solutions available for tire maintenance: The ContiConnect Yard, ContiPressure Check, and Flexible Solutions.
ContiConnect Yard allows fleet managers to see tire data for all of their buses simultaneously whenever they are within range of the Yard Reade (approximately 65 feet). Essentially, the solution gives fleet managers the ability to detect any tire issues before and after a vehicle heads out on the road.
ContiConnect Yard also includes tire sensors that deliver real-time tire pressure and temperature data to a web portal and sends alerts via text message or email if issues are detected, according to the manufacturer.
For rural areas where buses may operate from remote locations or not return frequently to a central bus yard, the ContiPressureCheck on-vehicle TPMS delivers real-time tire pressure and temperature data to an in-cab display so the driver has up-to-the-minute information about a tire’s status. School districts that use telematics solutions providers like Zonar can see ContiPressureCheck TPMS alerts in their telematics dashboard, according to Continental. Zonar, for example, provides tire pressure alerts in Ground Traffic Control, which allows fleet managers to include tire data as part of their overall daily monitoring.
Retreading contributes to the productive life of a tire, according to officials from Michelin. By utilizing the original quality casing, a retread can eliminate millions of scrap tires being sent to landfills each year. Additionally, it takes significantly less energy to produce a retread compared to the production of a new tire.
Another benefit: the upfront cost of a retread can be as much as 60% less than a new tire, according to The Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Cooper’s WORK Series tires, the standard fitment on Blue Bird school buses, utilize a four-belt steel design that creates a robust casing that allows for multiple retreads.
The Cooper WORK Series RHA is an all-position tire with 22.5/32nds of an inch of tread depth. The four-rib design offers heightened traction, and the tire’s sidewalls feature curb guard protection for tight turns in residential areas, according to the manufacturer.
The Cooper WORK Series RHD is a premium drive tire with 26/32nds of an inch of tread depth and a “more aggressive tread pattern,” according to the manufacturer. The RHD also features curb guard protection.
Continental’s ContiTread HSR 3 tire is designed to deliver durability, traction, and handling to suit the day-to-day demands of school bus fleets. The tire is designed to resist punctures and stone drilling, and defend against sidewall damage from curbs and abrasions, according to Continental. Zigzag biting edges deliver increased traction, helping with performance in ice and snow. The tire also comes with a matching retread, according to the manufacturer.
THE GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER CO.
Goodyear offers multiple premium new tires and retread applications for steer, all-position, and drive tires for school bus applications. School bus fleets can benefit from the tires’ premium casings, which are designed to handle frequent turning, braking, and curbing, as well as scrubbing and durability features that promote long miles to removal, according to the manufacturer.
MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA
Michelin Retread Technologies and Oliver Retreads both offer an array of retread products for school bus fleets. Michelin’s XZE pre-mold retread features tapered tread extensions that withstand shifting footprint stress while also maintaining casing durability, according to the manufacturer. From the casing’s arrival at Michelin to final hand inspection, the tires undergo a nine-step retreading process.