Act early to avoid lost productivity
British drivers’ understanding of cold weather tyres is still lagging behind their European counterparts, according to fleet industry insiders.
At a recent meeting of the Michelin Fleet Panel, members revealed that the majority of their customers still associate cold weather tyres with snow and don’t appreciate that performance benefits begin when temperatures drop below 7°C.
Caroline Wright, operations manager at Days Contract Hire, said: “It is very early days for cold weather tyres in fleet and there is a lot of education that is needed so people understand the true benefits o these tyres.”
Steve Chandler, supplier network manager at Lex Autolease, said: “People don’t know what cold weather tyres are. Because of that they don’t make balanced decisions, they make a reactive decision in December when it starts snowing.”
Such reactive decision-making is responsible for issues surrounding supply and demand, the Fleet Panel agreed.
The demand for cold weather tyres across Europe means UK customers need to place orders at least six months in advance of winter to be guaranteed supply. But after the first snow fell in November 2010, Fleet Panel members received a high level of requests from VIPs, including company directors, who wanted to take prompt delivery of cold weather tyres to keep them mobile in the bad weather. That left Fleet Panel members trying to find specialist tyres for 18 or 19-inch wheels at short notice – something they admit was “practically impossible”.
In an effort to prepare for next winter, members have gone back to those customers who expressed an interest in December, although half of callers say they do not have time to discuss them now that the weather has improved.
Andy Gullery, contracts manager at Masterlease, said: “In terms of customer opportunity we all need to encourage advanced planning rather than making distress purchases come the bad weather. “It can be difficult to try and get customers to think about cold weather tyres now, but it doesn’t take long to remember what a nightmare winter was. “Often in our conversations with customers we liken it to productivity or lost revenue so if fleet managers know they are losing £500 or £1,000 for a vehicle being off the road for a day, then you can encourage a spend-to-save mentality – they are spending on tyres but saving on productivity.”
After sharing their views at the meeting at Silverstone, Fleet Panel members were each given an opportunity to compare Michelin’s summer tyres with Michelin cold weather tyres for themselves, driving on a variety of surfaces including simulated ice and wet tarmac.
Following the trial, Malcolm Roberts, fleet service manager of Hitachi Capital Vehicle Solutions, said: “The performance of Michelin cold weather tyres is phenomenal compared to standard summer tyres. The braking performance, the grip in the wet – it was just incredible.”
Chris Joyce, operations director at FleetHire, said: “I was very surprised about the performance of Michelin cold weather tyres. The acceleration up the hill on the slippery surface was just spectacular – you would actually expect you were just driving on dry tarmac.”
He added: “As far as fleets are concerned I think the implications are clear – they should give due consideration to fitting tyres to cover the cold period of the year because they do enable you to have significantly improved safety performance without a shadow of a doubt.”
Simon Pilcher, supplier manager at LeasePlan UK, agreed: “The difference between the two types of tyres was amazing. You could almost feel the tyres gripping when you tried to pull away, or when you were trying to brake you could feel the tyres gripping to the road surface.”