Truck tyre specialists have their say

By: Steve Skinner

They’re the people truck operators increasingly depend on — tyre service providers. Steve Skinner visited a couple of them.

Sean Vittozzi

The saying "spoilt for choice" certainly applies to trucking operators when it comes to tyres.

In fact the choice in tyres these days can be almost overwhelming. That’s where tyre specialists like Sean Vittozzi come in."spoilt for choice" certainly applies to trucking operators when it comes to tyres.

Vittozzi is the manager of Gordon Leven Tyre and Auto Service at Emu Plains in Sydney’s west, and he’s been in the tyres game for more than 17 years. His truck clients include a local council and agitator fleet, and brands sold are Michelin, Pirelli, Double Coin and Continental.

"When Gordon started 30-something years ago you would have your main six or seven brands in truck tyres," Vittozzi says.

"Now you have probably 40 brands in truck tyres, and then you’ve got all the sizes and patterns, for urban to long haul, to steers and drives, to an all-purpose and an extra type for someone else and it’s all in different sizes as well, so it’s not as easy as saying ‘Oh yeah, we’ve got a truck tyre for you’.

"You have to ask the question ‘What are you doing with your vehicle?’".

To use tyre industry jargon, that’s finding the right tyre for the particular application.

Cheap truck tyres aren’t always cheap

Saving money isn’t necessarily just a matter of going for the cheapest truck tyres. When it comes to tyre prices it’s all about ‘cents per k’.

"Say a linehaul steer tyre costs me $500, and it gives me 100,000 kilometres," Vittozzi poses. "I could buy a bit more expensive one for $700 and it might give me 200,000km. Which is the cheaper tyre? The second one."Under Inflated Tyre

He estimates that a "good name brand" heavy truck steer tyre is in that range of $700 to $850, fitted. He reckons the ballpark for good drive tyre prices is $550 to $650, and $420 to $520 for a cleanskin trailer tyre.

Nevertheless Vittozzi says: "Cheaper tyres can be very good and are getting closer to a retread price".

Along with everybody else that ATN spoke with for these features, Vittozzi says the quality of most retreads is much better these days.

"Years ago we might have 100 retreads returned within 12 months, with a case or tread separation failure. Now it’s just a couple a year. Cases are getting better and retreading factories have picked up their act."

Pope’s Advice

Michael Pope owns and runs the Michelin Service Centre at Ingleburn in Sydney’s south west. He also sells Korean Kumho mid-range tyres, and in fact was Australia’s Kumho truck dealer of the year in 2009, 2010 and 2011.Michael Pope

Pope has been in the tyres industry for 25 years, starting out as a tyrefitter in New Zealand. He looks after numerous truck fleets including big Sydney-based operators John L Pierce, BagTrans and Australian Container Freight Services (ACFS), and he has a dozen small service trucks of his own.

Pope agrees with the adage of this reporter’s father, that a truck operator never went broke buying good tyres.

"The good truck operators see the value in the tyre," Pope says. "They know if they spend the right money in the right areas, it will save them money in the long run. Their cents per kilometre at the end will be a lot less."

Pope says there’s no need to be overwhelmed by choice; he offers what he says is a limited but well-proven range, with a new Michelin steer tyre priced at about $850 and a drive tyre about $660.

His number one tip for tyre maintenance is to check pressures and maintain rotations, and like many tyre dealers he offers a maintenance program to do this.

Neglecting truck tyre maintenance can be costly

Truck tyre inflation neglect

Pope says neglecting pressures is common, and it can be both costly and dangerous.

Pope says that nine times out of 10, truck tyre debris on the sides of roads is the result of under-inflation. The inside tyre on a set of duals might be low, the outer tyre takes all the weight, overheats and goes bang, possibly destroying the guard in the process."If you run a flat tyre you could stretch the case, and then when you put air in it, it could just tear apart. If you do make it [to the destination], the tyre’s rooted when you get there."

 "You could have saved all the hassle of being stuck on the side of the road for hours, damaging your vehicle and potentially damaging other people on the road. And it will cost you $1,500 by the time you get the tyre service out, after hours, to replace the tyre and guard."

Pope also runs a nearby Michelin retreading factory, and he re-grooves tyres.

"Regrooving is pretty standard now," he says. "But I don’t like regrooving steers because you get too close to the belt."


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