How Smart Tire Technology Is Changing Fleet Management

SMAR-te Tire Pilot
SAF-Holland has introduced SMAR-te Tire Pilot, which automatically adjusts tire pressure based on the trailer axle load. (SAF-Holland)

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Bob Herr can’t do it alone. Neither can the 85 drivers and the 90-vehicle fleet he manages at food service distributor Feesers Inc.

The central Pennsylvania-based com­pany, which supplies restaurants, health care facilities and other customers throughout the Mid-Atlantic, averages one flat tire per week.

For Herr and other fleet managers, intelligent tires are helping to prevent those costly and time-consuming tire failures.

Feesers has installed a display mounted on its yard’s fuel island that transmits and receives information from vehicle tires in the distribution fleet.

“Now I can bypass the driver and just watch the web portal as the trucks return,” Herr said.

He prefers this approach compared with a valve-mounted tire pressure monitoring system, which he said can have problems with faulty sensors if scraped against a curb, for example.

There are tens of millions of Class 8 truck and trailer tires rolling across Amer­ica, but until recently, nobody knew very much about what was going on inside those tires.

Rubber tires are made from polymers with properties of elasticity, resilience and toughness to allow a loaded commercial truck to withstand not only the vertical load, but the road friction it encounters on a daily basis. Recently, some tire manufacturers have begun integrating sensors on the inside of the tire, and sometimes within the material, to not just monitor pneumatic pressure but to help support tire management decisions and action.

Intelligent tires allow drivers and fleet managers to see what’s going on via digital monitoring. They afford performance visibility from inside a truck cab, on a mobile app or on a dashboard portal located thousands of miles away.

Data analytics and intelligent reporting are the future of tire management, said Paul Williams, Continental Tire’s executive vice president of commercial vehicle tires and digital solutions.

“We see the need for helping fleets reduce tire-related costs, increase uptime and optimize maintenance operations through a combination of data intelligence and service capabilities,” Williams said. “By providing this solutions-provider approach, Continental allows fleets to focus on their core operations. This ensures fleets can achieve their lowest overall driving cost.”


Tire makers such as Continental are incorporating embedded sensors in their products to help improve tire management and prevent tire failures. (Continental)

Continental launched its first digital tire monitoring solution, ContiPressureCheck, in 2013. That system monitors a single vehicle in real time and has been imple­mented on more than 10,000 vehicles.

In 2017, the company released its ContiConnect Yard solution, which monitors all vehicles in the fleet yard simultaneously. This is what Herr of Feesers uses to manage his fleet’s tires.

“Continental’s intelligent tire sensors, at the core of our digital tire monitoring solutions, constantly measure temperature and pressure from inside the tire,” Williams said.

The company also has introduced a live telematics solution called ContiConnect Live and recently previewed its Conti C.A.R.E. tire technology system.

Conti C.A.R.E. tires feature sensors that are built into the structure of the tire and gather and evaluate data on metrics such as tread depth, possible damage, tire temperature and tire pressure. The system transmits tire condition information to ContiConnect Live to help support proactive tire management for fleet operators.

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Conti C.A.R.E., which stands for Connected, Autonomous, Reliable, Electrified, is a networking of wheel and tire tech- nology that allows for management of tire performance characteristics.

The smart tires also are designed to support the requirements of electric and autonomous driving, Williams said.

“In combination with the web-based ContiConnect Live application, Conti C.A.R.E. forms a flexible system solution that can provide a means of tire management for modern robo-taxi fleets, for example, boosting performance as well as helping to optimize costs,” he said.

Smart tires are enabling fleet operators to take a more proactive stance for tire management.

“An intelligent tire serves as the great communicator for fleets,” said Judith ­Monte, vice president of marketing and customer success for Aperia Technologies.

Aperia offers the Halo Connect platform, which the company describes as “what it would be like to have a tire expert attached to every wheel every minute of every day.”

Monte said the system uses machine learning to identify issues long before one could with a pressure gauge or typical tire pressure monitoring system — effectively enabling fleets to shift from a reactive service model to a proactive and predictive service model.


Aperia's Halo Connect platform provides predictive tire maintenance information while also detecting leaks. (John Sommers II for Transport Topics)

“An intelligent tire goes beyond its physical use to instantly connect fleet managers and personnel with smart data and information as well as solutions to proactively keep tires healthy and trucks moving safely on the road,” she said. “Halo Connect was built on top of a billion miles of data, and with every consecutive mile, the predictive analytics of the solution get smarter and smarter.”

Monte said the system has provided proven savings due to reduced vehicle downtime. The company implemented a 30-day, 119-truck pilot program with an unnamed fleet. The result: $150,000 saved in maintenance costs across two terminals, no underinflated tires on more than 950 tires, early detection and intervention of 156 active tire leaks, and 32 of those leaks were severe and would have otherwise re­sulted in significant downtime and damaged tire casings.

Trucking industry supplier SAF-­Holland also offers tech­nology designed to enhance tire management.

In late 2019, the company introduced its SMAR-te Tire Pilot, a system that features an electro-pneumatic control module with intelligent air system sensors that determine the trailer axle load weight. It then automatically adjusts tire pressure.

The system is preprogrammed to tire manufacturers’ recommended load pressure ratings to ensure optimized tread profile to road contact to enhance tread life and reduce rolling resistance.

“The system can be preprogrammed to sense maximum load weight to help prevent overload citation,” said William Hicks, a product manager with SAF-­Holland. “An overload alert can be transmitted directly to the ­driver via Bluetooth. A minor and severe leak detection feature alerts the driver of the need for maintenance or a repair stop. Additional benefits include safe and reliable tire performance, enhanced fuel economy, carbon-emission reductions and reduced tire and vehicle maintenance.”


Fleets such as Feesers Inc. are deploying intelligent tire technology to improve maintenance and prevent costly tire failures. (Feesers Inc.)

As for Herr and his 90-truck food distribution fleet at Feesers, he continues to use ContiConnect to detect low pressure in four to five tires each week, on average. Someone can take action right away and avoid the tires going flat overnight.

With his new system, sensors are internal and less prone to damage and theft, plus it ensures the sensor can accurately detect the tire temperature and pressure without being influenced by heat from braking systems.

Herr hopes to mount a screen in his workshop for mechanics to have the greatest visibility into which tires need maintenance. Tire problems are latent, not ­easily detected, and can quickly lead to tire failures if problems are not caught early.

But the emergence and expansion of intelligent tires could help mitigate these challenges before they occur.

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