The cost of running a fleet is becoming increasingly expensive, with prices for fuel, insurance and maintenance creeping up. Replacement tyres, in particular, are a significant expense for fleet managers – second only to the cost of fuel. While they are an inevitable part of fleet expenditure, there are ways to reduce the outlay. Even small improvements can improve tyre longevity and help improve your bottom line. Switching to aluminium wheels, for example, can have a noticeable effect on both overall costs and fleet performance.
Typically used for commercial vehicle fleets, steel wheels are a firm favourite among fleet managers looking for strength and durability. Although steel wheels may appear more cost-effective in the short-term, replacing them with aluminium wheels can result in up to 10% greater tyre durability, as well as improved mileage and a 24% increase in tyre-life saving across various terrains.1
From a tyre longevity point of view, the properties of aluminium make it the preferred choice for wheels. The process of spin-forging aligns the grain structure of aluminium with the shape of the wheel, which makes it five times stronger than traditional materials. Since aluminium has high thermal conductivity, it also helps to dissipate heat away from vehicle components, making it up to 22°C cooler (on average) than steel. According to research carried out by WIL Ltd, there is also a temperature decrease in the bead wire belts by up to 13%, as well as a 21% temperature decrease in the overall bead area. The study also looked at the difference between forged aluminium and steel rimmed wheels after running for 70 hours and found that the temperature of the tyre bead belt was recorded at 83.2°C after 47 hours in the aluminium rim, compared to 92.2°C with steel after the same duration. These tests were also repeated using different vehicle types and on varied terrain, such as on hills and on motorways – with similar results.2
These drops in temperature can dramatically reduce the damaging impact on vehicles, as the heat is distributed equally across the tyre, instead of wearing down the tyre edge. As well as reducing tyre wear, the properties of aluminium reduce damage to brake pads and braking performance – helping to prolong brake life and lower costs associated with ongoing maintenance.
Lightening the load
Aluminium wheels offer several performance advantages, as they are typically 40% lighter than their steel alternatives. Their lightweight structure means they are much more suitable for high-performance driving in most conditions, allowing better handling, lower un-sprung mass and improved fuel economy. This can reduce wear on suspensions and shock absorbers, as well as increase load capacity and ensure greater flexibility for fleets. Aluminium wheels are also more resistant to corrosion than steel, which can result in a longer service life.
Navigating the road ahead
Tyres are a huge investment for fleet managers, and it’s important to get as much life out of them as possible. Making an informed decision about your wheel solution can help improve tyre durability, mileage and result in greater tyre-life savings. While both steel and aluminium wheels offer advantages for different vehicles, the benefits of aluminium on heavy goods vehicles (HGVs) are numerous – helping to reduce wear and tear on tyres and provide significant total cost of ownership (TCO) benefits.
*References available upon request.