The Long and the Short of It
In Europe more than 80 per cent of total freighted transport is shipped by road. This huge chunk of the logistics industry has been secured courtesy of two main benefits offered by truck transport, plus one disadvantage apparent in the primary alternative. Despite this position of dominance, ever-rising operating costs make optimising value for money a growing priority in all aspects of the business – not least in choice of tyre. Dunlop’s introduction of two key products for the regional and long haul sectors is intended to meet this need plus deliver the safety and handling features drivers have come to expect from the brand.
The popularisation of supply management techniques such as just-in-time since the 1970s has made the delivery of just the right amount of materials exactly when needed a matter of vital importance, and if multiple deliveries of varying product quantities are needed, road freight is clearly the most logical option. Furthermore, the point to point delivery offered by trucks eliminates dependency upon a railhead or other freight interchange facility. Thirdly, those arguing that a shift to rail transport would clear our congested motorways – perhaps a notion many have entertained on occasion – are most likely unaware of how little coordination occurs between Europe’s 25 or so national rail networks. Although a 2003 EU directive permitting the formation of private rail freight operators has brought about a more competitive environment, rail has yet to deliver a product matching road transport in terms of speed and flexibility of delivery.
The road freight market is in turn dominated by five countries – Germany, Italy, Spain, France and the UK – that represent 70 per cent of the total. The overall European market is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 6.6 per cent between the years 2008 and 2011, with international road freight increasing markedly faster than domestic, at 9.8 per cent versus 5.2 per cent. This growth is reflected in truck production, which last year grew 11.3 per cent to 531,000 units, thanks largely to higher demand from Eastern Europe, and also in the OE tyre market, which currently sits at approximately 8 million units per year.
The trend in road transport is ever more in the direction of application specific vehicles and a need for fleets to operate in varying applications, such as short haul distribution, intercity, long haul and regional. And this is where Dunlop comes into the picture. The new Dunlop On Road range is intended to meet these changing transport needs, delivering the benefits required by fleets, service networks and truck drivers alike.
“What we are presenting today is a new direction for Dunlop in the truck industry,” stated Goodyear Dunlop vice president commercial tires, Henry Johnson. “With our new products, the Dunlop Truck Tyre range is in a strong position to deliver real value for money to a range of users, from the fleets to the service networks.” These words came at the official launch of two tyres Dunlop believes will become its top selling lines; products designed to perform well in the dual roles of regional and long haul service. “What we propose with our new Dunlop tyres is to combine both regional and long haul applications,” further explained Boris Stevanovic, marketing director Truck EEMEA. “We think it will bring impressive results for industry partners, fleets and service networks.” The tyres introduced by Mr. Johnson and other key members of Dunlop’s European team at the fabled Le Mans race circuit in France include a new steer axle and drive axle tyre, both in the popular 22.5-inch rim size. The Dunlop SP344 steer tyre and SP444 drive tyre for vehicles 7.5 tonne and upwards join a range that already features 17.5 and 19.5-inch fittings.
It is not only the tyres’ multiple on-road applications that make them attractive. They also feature all-season capabilities, including a highly bladed tread pattern for improved water dispersal. “If we look at the new tread pattern, we have implemented some new blades,” commented European technical director Jürgen Spielmann, speaking about the SP444. “These blades are present down through 85 per cent of the depth of the mould, permitting excellent traction through the entire tyre life.” The ‘flexomatic’ blades in the SP344 steer tyre go down to 67 per cent of non-skid depth. The polyvalent tread compound and the design used in both tyres, reports Mr. Spielmann, is optimised for resistance to abrasion damage, a strong selling point for short haul and delivery operators, plus resistance to the heat build up typically encountered by those engaged in long-haul driving.
“The drive tyre pattern with its moulded shapes,” continues Jürgen Spielmann, “and also the steer tyre pattern provide equal pressure distribution throughout the whole footprint. We have worked towards, without compromising the existing strength of the previous generation tyre, on emphasising mileage in the SP344 and SP444.” It appears Dunlop has accomplished this; the SP344 holds a 20 per cent advantage over its predecessor in terms of mileage, the SP444 15 per cent.
The tread pattern on the SP344 has five ribs and closed shoulder ribs. This pattern is designed to for high mileage while at the same time reduce noise and improve handling. Wet performance is through blading that provide more edges to grip the road and help water dispersal. Stone penetration protector systems are incorporated into the tread to reduce the risk of punctures and carcass damage.
The SP444 has a wide five rib tread pattern and features a centerline rib, which Dunlop reports aids in providing an even wear pattern and lower rolling resistance. Wet performance is enhanced by 3D-BIS ‘waffle’ blades that lock the tread blocks in the footprint for greater grip and open afterwards to provide high volume water clearance. Other features include directional groove tapers and blade locations, to reduce heel–and-toe wear, and new tear-drop blade bottoms, which increase resistance to fatigue cracking.
The technology and carcass geometry designed into both tyres, adds Dunlop, provides greater durability, better damage resistance, better retreadability, easier mounting, and less weight, which means more payload. The construction includes super tensile steel carcass and belts, which improve crack resistance, due to reducing internal strain and allowing full rubber penetration between the cords.
The new products are intended as replacements for the SP341 steer axle tyre and SP442 drive axle tyre. Three key sizes in the SP344 and SP444 ranges – 315/80R22.5, 295/80R22.5 and 315/70R22.5 – will be introduced onto the market in September. The remaining tyres will become available in the second and third quarters of 2009. Prices for the new tyres will, commented Mr. Johnson, be between 3.5 and 5 per cent higher than those of their predecessors.