Single Wide Tires (aka "Super Singles")
5/1/2008 - Heavy Duty Trucking Magazine
Single Wide Tires (aka "Super Singles"
Evan Lockridge, Contributing Editor
After years of talk about the benefits of single-wide tires, the market might finally be showing signs of real growth. The biggest purveyor of these tires –which replace the dual tires on a tractor or trailer with a single tire – is Michelin. In February, the company announced that sales of its X-One line doubled last year. In fact, they've done so every year since they appeared on the market in January 2001, and Michelin has expanded its production to a second tire plant.
Currently the only other tire manufacturer actively selling single- wide (also called wide-base) tires is Bridgestone/Firestone. While Michelin's vie that single-wides can be used in most any application, Bridgestone/Firestone sees them as a niche product, mainly for fleets that need all the weight savings they can get, such as bulk haulers.
Niche or not, the number of manufacturers is getting ready to expand Late last year, a Goodyear spokesman said the company has been testing the tires "extensively the past few years" and that it would be some time 2007 before they would offer them. More recently, however, a different spokesman was noncommittal, saying they would "be ready with products when the market demands them."
Another tire maker will beat Goodyear to the punch. During the Mid-America Trucking Show in March, Continental displayed its HDL1 drive tire HTL1 trailer tire, size 445/50R22.5. Both are slated to be released in the second half of this year.
"Continental views these tires as an emerging niche in the trucking industry that will benefit carriers of bulk liquid and other operations that need weight savings," says Alexander Chmiel, spokesman for Continental.
From that statement, it appears that Continental is looking at niche markets for this product, much like Bridgestone/Firestone. Are there fleets other than those in bulk liquid and other niche markets that are using single-wide tires? Yes, there are. One of them is New Jersey-based New Century Transportation.
If that name doesn't ring a bell, the man who founded it likely will: Harry Muhlschlegel, the less-than-truckload pioneer who founded Jevic Transportation. Muhlschlegel reinvented the LTL model with Jevic following deregulation, when traditional LTLs were getting kicked around by truckload carriers. In 1999 he sold Jevic to Yellow, but came back in 2000 with New Century, a general commodities hauler serving both the truckload and less-than-truckload sector.
"We went to super-single tires about three years ago, and we've seen an uptick in fuel economy, better rolling resistance, virtually no tire failure – and drivers like them," Muhlschlegel said in an interview earlier this year. The main reason New Century went to these tires in 2003 was weight savings, he said, gaining about 1,000 extra pounds of cargo by replacing all the duals on a tractor-trailer with single-wide tires on aluminum wheels.
Today New Century runs the tires on about 400 of its 500 tractors and close to half of its 1,300 dry van and temperature-controlled trailers. John Liberkowski, who has been with Muhlschlegel since his days at Jevic, is purchasing manager and has also been director of maintenance. He says single-wide tires have given the company the same amount of wear as dual tires per 32nds on the drive axles. But when they replaced duals with single-wides on trailers, there were significant improvements.
"On the trailer side we went from, say, 160,000 miles on a set of new tires (duals) to a set of singles that brought me 200,000,"he says. On top of this, he says, fuel economy for tractor-trailers outfitted with duals showed an improvement of about four-tenths of a mile per gallon.
The other advantage of single-wides, Liberkowski says, is that it allows New Century to serve its customers better. Compared to a dual wheel tractor-trailer combination, he says, New Century is able to get about 1,000 more pounds of freight on its trucks. Although the company hasn't been able to put a dollar figure on the value of the extra freight, "we did figure if we are at our customer's yard and he says this amount of freight weighs this much, we always know we can put more freight on the trailer and we wouldn't be over gross."
New Century also has been proactive when it comes to addressing one of the concerns people voice when it comes to single- wide tires – handling roadside emergencies. You can't limp-along to the nearest service facility on a single-wide flat like you can – but shouldn't – on a dual tire. Liberkowski says New Century has dealt with this issue several ways:
• Yard checks of their equipment three times a day
• Preventive tire sealant to help plug any small punctures a tire may get while it's in service.
• A dedicated staff to handle breakdowns, allowing them to limit a roadside tire emergency to just an hour and a half.
In fact, Liberkowski says, the failure rate on the road with the single-wide tires is less than half a percent – better than when they were running duals.
So would single-wide tires be right for your fleet? Not necessarily. Each fleet is different. However, if some of the benefits New Century has achieved look good to you, try testing these tires on just a few trucks and trailers. Should you decide to make them a big part of your fleet, you may even be known one day as a pioneer in trucking, like Harry Muhlschlegel.
If you have any questions or comments regarding this article please contact Mark Farkhan at [email protected]