In an industry that is historically resistant to radical change, replacing a set of duals with an ultra-low-profile wide-base tire is a difficult proposition. Some won't even consider it because the mere thought of such a shift could cause a mutiny by drivers and maintenance personnel. Others simply point to the economics and make it clear that everyone will just have to adapt. But the rest are gathering information or testing these tire an wheel assemblies to determine total cost per mile before making a decision.
The primary benefit appears to be the lighter weight. When you can replace 500 to 1,000 lb. of tire and wheel with cargo, you're probably going to lower delivery costs. In some instances, the financial advantage is so significant that tire cpm becomes secondary. Increased production at the manufacturing level and the number of new players in the market indicates demand is growing.
The question is whether that growth is coming from the specialized carriers that gross out before they cube out. If it is, then ultra-low-profile wide-base tires will likely remain a niche market for at least the next few years. But if standard freight and delivery companies are responsible for most of the increased demand, then we may be a few steps closer to a world without duals.
Is that possible, a world without dual tires? Europe has been moving in that direction for years, and the number of vehicles there with single drive and trailer tires continues to increase. Keep in mind that the distances trucks travel across the pond are a lot different than those in North America. Paris and Berlin are closer than New York and Indianapolis, for example
So before you sign off on a conversion plan to eliminate dual tire and wheel assemblies, I want to give you some insight as to how such a change will impact your maintenance department. After all, they will be the people looking after the investment; if it makes their jobs easier, they will embrace the change with open arms.
First, you and every employee in the company must recognize that it's just that, an investment. Ultra-low-profile wide-base tires require special aluminum or steel wheels that are more expensive than disc wheels. The tires themselves typically cost the same as two standard tires, if not more, so costs related to run-flats, bead damage and improper repairs will increase. And special restraining devices are necessary to accommodate the increased assembly width, which means additional upfront costs.
From a maintenance perspective, the move to ultra-low-profile wide-base tires should result in a time saving. After all, drivers and mechanics only have 10 inflation pressures to check instead of 18, and there are no inner wheels to deal with. Likewise, the process of changing drive or trailer tires should also be faster because there are fewer components to remove, demount, mount, inflate and install.
Everything points toward these assemblies becoming the greatest thing since tubeless tires, but the issue of long-term durability and retreadability is still unresolved. We have an excellent record of how standard dual tire and wheel assemblies perform over time in almost every conceivable environment, but the ultra-low-profile wide-base tires have only been on the market for a few years in select applications. So until we have substantial historical data, there's going to be some degree of trial and error for most of you who jump onboard.