Fuel Savings Guide

This is How You Roll: How Tires Can Affect Fuel Savings

Today’s physics lesson: reducing the rolling resistance of your tires could lead to a significant drop in fuel consumption.

Can the right set of tires really help you save a significant amount of money on fuel?

The answer is yes. The amount of energy your tires exert while rolling under a full load can greatly affect the fuel consumption of your truck.

How Tires Save Fuel

Tires are not the biggest factor when it comes to paying less at the pump, but they represent an easy way to make your truck more fuel-friendly. How do tires make a difference? It is a matter of simple physics. Rolling resistance—the pressure that a rolling tire puts on the road—is one force that works against your truck’s speed. Other factors include air resistance, friction loss in the engine and steep inclines. Some experts report that as much as a third of a truck’s fuel consumption is caused by tire rolling resistance. When factoring in cars and other vehicles, the U.S. Department of Energy estimates that 5% to 15% of U.S. fuel consumption is related to rolling resistance.

Any improvement made to the rolling resistance of a truck does not directly correlate with the amount saved on fuel, but it does help. A 5% improvement in rolling resistance might translate into around 2% less fuel consumed. As trucks have become more aerodynamic in design, rolling resistance has had a smaller impact on fuel use, but it is still significant. For a company that spends $500,000 annually on fuel, that 2% reduction means saving $10,000 a year.

Getting the Most from Your Tires

So how do you lower rolling resistance and lower your fuel costs? Here are a few things to keep in mind:
  • Traction matters. Back in the days before rising oil prices, heavier traction was an attractive quality. Tires with deep treads and lug patterns were popular then. The fuel-efficient tires of today offer less traction and rolling resistance but do not limit a truck’s safe operation. Studies show that even a switch from duel tires to wide-base singles does not compromise safe driving in hazardous conditions.
  • Older tires can be more efficient than new ones. That is because their treads are not as deep. As a tread wears down, the fuel efficiency of the tire usually increases due to less traction. The second half of your tires’ tread life can save you more money than the first half.
  • Uneven tire pressure can add expense. Proper inflation for a given tire size and truckload will reduce the flexing, stress and build-up in the tire that lead to wasteful fuel use. The casing of the tire is important as well. Even retreaded casings that retain fuel efficiency can be effective.
  • Not all axles are the same. The amount of rolling resistance per axle is equal to the amount of weight that axle bears. Therefore, the trailer axles on a tractor-trailer offer the best chance of fuel savings.
  • It pays to do research. Every tire company offers a fuel-efficient product for trucks. Take the time to surf the Web for customer reviews, independent studies and price comparisons to make sure you find the right set of tires for your fuel-saving needs.
Sources: TruckingInfo.com, Fleet Owner, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations, GT Radial