Every day, millions of students rely on school buses to get to and from school. Those buses must be prepared to take on uneven roads, potholes, sharp turns, and other potential hazards. Choosing the right tire to make the trek is crucial.
A few things to consider when shopping for the tires are price, wear patterns, how the bus is used, and noise, vibration, and harshness, says Max Christensen, education program consultant for the Iowa Department of Education Bureau of School Business Operations.
When it comes to price, you're not just looking at the initial cost; you're also looking at the price per mile. For example, you might buy a tire for $300 that will run for 40,000 miles. That gives you a cost of $.0075 per mile. Meanwhile, a tire that costs $400 will run for 60,000 miles. That gives you a cost of $.0066, making it a more cost-effective choice.
Next, consider wear patterns. Every tire wears differently. All tires benefit from being rotated from position to position. Some require more rotations than others to maintain a good wear pattern. That requires time for staff to do it, which means down time for the vehicle.
It's a good idea to look at how the bus is used: is it only used on extra-curricular activities? If so, a more straight-treaded tire will work, rather than a traction tire, Christensen says. Is the bus only used on in-town routes? That's another use where a straight-treaded tire would be beneficial. If the bus is on a rural route with gravel routes, traction tires may be a better option because they tend to wear better, and they certainly offer better traction in these types of conditions.
When you're driving a personal car, you likely don't want a tire that creates a lot of noise. In the same way, you should take that into consideration with a school bus. Straight treads are much quieter than traction treads. There are also variances between the different straight-treaded tire offerings and the different traction tire offerings. Some tires simply run smoother, leading to less vibration. Some tires also react to or handle bumps, potholes, or other road conditions with more harshness.
School Bus Fleet talked to two major school bus tire manufacturers to help you find the right ones for your fleet.
Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. Offerings Provide Durability
Many school bus fleets choose Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.’s Endurance RSA and Marathon RSA tires for their steer/all-position tires because of their dependable benefits and long miles to removal. Both tires are made with innovative high-scrub tread compounds and rib designs that help deliver even wear and long miles to removal, says Frank Incorvaia, commercial manager for strategic government accounts at the Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.
Goodyear tires we explored include:
- Endurance RSA
- Marathon RSA
- GS22 RSD
The Goodyear Endurance RSA is ideal for regional and city driving, and offers significant advantages in wear, rolling resistance, and curb impact resistance. Its special tread block geometry offers superb traction and quick braking while driving on wet or snow-covered roads, according to Goodyear.
The Goodyear Marathon RSA is ideal for regional and urban applications. Its multi-compound layered tread construction helps extend tread life and fuel economy.
In the drive position, many fleets use the Goodyear G622 RSD when more aggressive traction is needed. The Goodyear G622 offers tough tread compounds and an open shoulder tread design with aggressive blading to deliver traction in wet, muddy, and snowy conditions, Incorvaia explains.
All three of these options are made with a premium, enhanced casing, which helps provide durability and maximum retreadability.
“In today’s environment, we’ve seen that retreading helps school bus fleets extend the life of their casing investment and deliver cost savings since a retread costs roughly one-third of the price of a new tire,” Incorvaia says.
Electric school bus operators must take additional things into consideration. The additional weight and focus on range for electric vehicles (EVs) means the tires need to balance the need for load capacity and durability. Earlier this year, Goodyear launched its first EV-ready tire: the Endurance RSA 17.5” ULT. It’s designed for the high scrub and curbing that smaller school buses often experience. Goodyear intends to launch more electric drive-ready tires for more commercial fleets in the coming months and years.
As soon as quarter four of this year, Goodyear will launch tire options for school bus fleets to help optimize their EV investment with tires that will get the job done, Incorvaia says.
Goodyear offers customer support with its Goodyear Total Mobility platform, which features products, a premier service network, and a full portfolio of tire management tools and services to help customers. The Goodyear Total Mobility platform can help by increasing uptime, helping to extend tire life, and making vehicles safer for passengers and communities.
Michelin Breaks through Performance Compromises
When Michelin designs and builds a tire, it always seeks to break through “performance compromises,” delivering the best overall value, explains Brian Adams of Michelin Mobilities Marketing. The tire-maker has developed three primary offers for school bus fleets:
- Michelin XZE
- Michelin XDN2
- Michelin Agilis Cross Climate
The Michelin XZE all-position tire is focused on safety and longevity. In the area of safety, it has a five-rib tread pattern with full-depth, zigzag sipes that delivers excellent traction, especially in wet, rainy conditions. The tire also delivers strong stopping power, Adams says. In the area of longevity, the tread compound, architecture, and curb guards help deliver extended life, delivering values to school districts’ and contractors’ budgets.
The all-weather drive Michelin XDN2 tire provides additional safety and longevity across all weather conditions. It has an even wider matrix of full-depth, zigzag sipes than the XZE to deliver great handling and stopping in wet, dry, and winter conditions.
The Michelin Agilis Cross Climate all-weather light truck tire is designed for the smaller vehicles within school bus fleets, delivering the same benefits as the XDN2.
Michelin has an extensive network of dealer partners, comprised of its Michelin Certified Service Network (MCSN) and independent dealers. The network connects directly with each school system to find the right balance of service support they are seeking, Adams explains. These offers include emergency roadside assistance, wheel repair and refurbishment, regular tire health monitoring, and fleet care – light and full vehicle maintenance.