Winter Tyres for Trucks
In the northern countries of mainland Europe, winter tyres for passenger cars are a fact of life – not only desirable, but in some states, compulsory. But what about trucks? After all, for most people, if the weather is bad then they can take a day off or stay at home, but if you are a trucker with a load of food, fast approaching its sell-by date, then this is not an option.
Certainly there are plenty of trucks out there; one study revealed that almost half of Europe’s goods are transported by road and the number of lorries on the continent’s roads has tripled in the past 30 years. The study also predicts that, if things continue to go on as at present, then by 2010 the number of lorries on the roads of the 15 EU states (before the recent enlargement) will be 50 per cent higher than it was in 1998.
Winter tyres for trucks do exist – in last month’s Tyres & Accessories, Eddy Fogarty, Sales Director of Uniroyal truck Tyres, mentioned the introduction of a winter tyre – the Uniroyal FW100 – in September last year. A winter tyre for trucks sounded unusual, so we asked Mr Fogarty for more details.
In a way, it is ironic that the news of the FW100 should come from a UK-based company, as Mr. Fogarty freely admits that the UK market for winter truck tyres is “virtually zero”. Even in mainland Europe, he estimates that winter tyres account for only two per cent of new truck tyre sales. Not worth bothering about perhaps? True the volumes are small, but a few years ago, winter truck tyre sales were non-existent. Today they account for one fiftieth of the market – and in a few years’ time, who knows?
The FW100 (the FW stands for “Front/Winter”) comes in the two most popular European sizes of 295/80 R22.5 and 315/80 R22.5. Although it is a steer axle tyre, some coach operators fit steer tyres to all axle positions, on the grounds that their vehicles do not have to haul the heavy weights that trucks have to transport. There are no plans to add to the two sizes currently in production, as they cover the majority of vehicles on the road. “For coaches, these two sizes will cover around 75 per cent of the market” said Eddie Fogarty.
Designed for winter
The FW100 has been designed specifically as a winter tyre for European roads, with enhanced performance in wintry conditions. It has many, deep sipes to provide extra biting edges – and hence, better traction – on packed snow and ice, plus the design of the tread ensures efficient evacuation of water and slush. The tyre is made with a silica-rich compound for improved grip; in Uniroyal’s words “the surface of the tyre keys better with the surface of the road.”
Eddie Fogarty is realistic enough to appreciate that the FW100 will never be a volume seller, but he insists that there is a market out there. Hauliers who operate a lot in mountainous areas will find the tyres beneficial, but a bigger market could be that of coaches. Imagine a coach that picks up from an airport and then transfers holiday makers to a skiing resort – in wintry conditions on mountain roads, safety is paramount and safety, insists Mr Fogarty, is what winter truck tyres are all about.
It is conceivable too that an operator of a pan-European fleet, whose vehicles regularly cross the length or breadth of the continent, may find it advantageous to fit the tyres. True, his journey may begin in a mild climate, but what conditions might he encounter before reaching his destination?
Although the FW100 is a tyre designed specifically for winter, it is by no means the only tyre in the Uniroyal stable suitable for use in cold conditions. Mr Fogarty pointed out that Uniroyal’s standard traction tyre, the DH100 (DH = “Drive/Highway”) is actually marked M+S on the sidewall, while another drive axle tyre, the MS800 is available. The MS800 is designed for the really harsh winter weather sometimes seen in central Europe and would be available in the UK only on demand.