European Tires, Understanding the Basics
As truck manufacturers continue to bring Euro-style vans into the North American market, it is important to understand subtle differences in components that can have significant influence on operations. As safety is an important mission within your organization, it is your job as fleet manager to provide employees and customers with safe, compliant vehicles and equipment. This includes understanding many aspects of vehicle design and OEM specification replacement parts.
Tire replacement is one of the easiest issues to overlook. As a fleet manager, you have likely standardized many components within your operations as this reduces downtime and inventory overhead. Tires, however, can be misunderstood due to labeling differences between Euro-style and North American tires. Sidewall markings can look similar, and tire size may be equivalent. However, it is important to note load rating is calculated differently on P-, Euro- and LT-metric tires. There are a few standards set by either Tire and Rim Association Inc. or European Tyre and Rim Technical Organization. These organizations use different calculations to define a tire’s maximum load capacity, but they use similar sidewall identification that can easily be mistaken when replacing tires. Specifically, the nomenclature looks similar but has different meanings. Nominal width, aspect ratio and rim size are identical. The subtle difference is knowing the type of tire that came from the OEM. The 3 main classifications for on-road tires are P-, Euro- and LT-metric tires.
What Tire Do You Have?
Vehicle certification is another important point. Replacing components that do not meet or exceed original vehicle manufacturer requirements may result in falling short of U.S. National Highway Traffic Safety Administration certification standards. Knowingly or unknowingly allowing this to happen reduces fleet safety and makes your organization vulnerable to serious liability. It is important to reiterate the fleet manager is responsible for supplying their users with safe, compliant vehicles. Some fleet managers may be less concerned than original manufacturers about replacing tires that have a lower load index for ease of standardization. Their thought process is based on how they perceive actual use and application. They realize the tires they are replacing have a lower load index and carrying capacity than the original tires. However, they may not find this concerning as they realize their vehicles are not fully loaded to maximum capacity. In addition to premature wear and tear and safety compromises, this is a huge liability for your organization. In the event of an accident, regardless of cargo and weight, the vehicle does not meet regulatory compliance simply due to the tires. A fleet manager may face legal consequences for knowingly or unknowingly allowing this to happen.
As a helpful example, on a 235/65R16C Euro-metric tire, the C indicates this is a commercial tire, not a load range of C (found on an LT-metric specification). At first glance, this can be confusing due to the similarities and subtle differences. Most seasoned fleet professionals that have used LT tires are familiar with load range letters, which range from B to F and simply indicate the number of plies constructing the sidewall and maximum load pressure. This designation is not to be confused with load index – the weight-carrying calculation based on a given tire pressure which varies between P, Euro- and LT-metric tires. It is important to understand these differences and ensure the tires being replaced meet or exceed required OEM specifications.
Reading the Sidewall
Ensure the Correct Tires
At the end of the day, running a fleet can become overwhelming. There are so many small details that can create a world of noise and distractions. Having proper procedures in place can eliminate unnecessary mistakes that could lead to catastrophic failures. Engaging multiple lines of communication and training reduces the risk of any single entity (i.e., procurement, end users, vendors or even fleet managers) letting some small detail slip through the cracks. Providing the correct components on all levels will reduce maintenance costs; lower risk and liability for your organization; increase safety; and avoid premature wear on components.
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