How to save fuel with tyres


When fleet managers talk business, there are two topics that always come up: sustainability and the rising costs of doing business. Since saving fuel solves both problems at the same time – less fuel means less cost and lower emissions – it is little wonder that fuel economy has become a key objective for truck fleets. 


But what can your tyres do to help? And can they really make a difference? Let’s look at the aspects of tyre usage that can keep fuel (and battery) usage to as minimum, and outline what you can do in practical terms for your fleet.

What is rolling resistance?

Discussions about tyre fuel economy centre on a single term: rolling resistance. In its simplest terms, rolling resistance is defined as the measure of force at the axle in the direction of travel required to make a loaded tire roll. As rolling resistance increases, less of the engine’s energy is converted into forward motion, and that energy is therefore considered to be wasted. 


To explain how tyre manufacturers such as Goodyear minimise rolling resistance, we need to look at two key characteristics of tyres: the design of the tread pattern and the compound used.

Goodyear truck tyres

Finding a balance between tread design and compound

The pattern on truck tyres consists of grooves and sipes. For clarification, grooves are the continuous channels that go around the whole tyre, while sipes are the small lateral, channels that interconnect the grooves. Their combined role is to ensure traction in wet conditions by efficiently evacuating water away from the point of contact between tyre and road.


All commercial tyres have these designs – but if we look at them more closely, we can see how it can affect rolling resistance. As a part of the tyre makes contact with the road, the grooves and sipes flex and close up. This is how they evacuate water. But the deeper a groove, the more the tyre material has to flex and move as that part of the tyre rolls makes contact with the road. Flexing too much is a waste of energy, so it is minimised by making those grooves and sipes as shallow as possible whilst retaining desired levels of traction.

Goodyear fuelmax endurance line designs

Tread compound

The problem we then come up against is tyre life: a tyre with shallow tread will not last as long as one with deeper tread. Goodyear’s answer to this is to develop ever more hard-wearing compounds. We are therefore able to offer fuel-efficient tyres such as the FUELMAX Endurance, which minimise rolling resistance, but are still tough enough to last a typical 230,000km - depending on the conditions of use of course.

Goodyear Fuelmax Endurance

If the terrain becomes less consistent, and if bends in the road become sharper and more frequent, many fleets will opt for the more rugged KMAX. As described earlier, the greater depth of groove of the KMAX means the tyre will last longer, but at the expense of rolling resistance. For a full calculation of the relative costs of each option, check out our infographic here.

Inflate your tyres, not your costs

One of the least appreciated factors in tyre-based fuel economy is incorrect inflation. Each tyre is designed to perform optimally when a specific contact area or patch is in contact with the road. However, incorrect tyre – in relation to the total load of the truck – inflation can affect this area. 


Under inflated tyres compress more, spreading the tyre and creating a larger-than-optimal contact area. More contact, greater resistance to travel, more fuel required. What’s more, additional stresses are placed on the tyre structure which means the tyre will degrade more quickly. 


Over inflated tyres may present a smaller contact area, since the tyre is more rigid. While this does not increase resistance to the same extent, the tyre tread is still compromised – and a smaller contact area can have dangerous consequences in terms of reduced traction.

Incorrect inflation can also have an impact on parts of the tyre not in contact with the road. Tyre carcasses in a given size are quite similar and the wires and the rubber in the carcass are designed to work optimally at certain pressures and temperatures. If these parameters are not observed, carcasses may become weakened and unsuitable for retreading.

Goodyear tyres for different roads

How can you maintain correct pressure?

The simple answer is to check tyre pressure at frequent intervals and keep it at the right level. However, in the busy life of a typical fleet, it is almost impossibly time-consuming  to do this manually. Goodyear has therefore developed a number of tools to do it automatically. 


DrivePoint, for example, is an affordable, yard-based system that gathers tyre pressure data from on-valve TPMS sensors as the truck drives past a specialist ‘tower’, thus checking pressure every time a truck enters or leaves the yard. Larger fleets may choose to invest in the more sophisticated CheckPoint, a system that uses lasers to read not only pressure but also temperature, tread depth and axle weight.


Then there is also TPMS, which also uses on-valve sensors but connects remotely via a telematics router and the Goodyear cloud - so tyre pressure is monitored even when the truck is out on the road.


All these solutions ultimately relay tyre data to a mobile app or a desktop to keep drivers and fleet technicians informed of any action they need to take, even detecting slow punctures by measuring tiny changes in pressure over time. It’s estimated that under-inflation by just 1 bar can increase annual fuel costs by €900 per vehicle – so these solutions pay for themselves quickly and are used by most major fleets.

Choose wisely, drive safely

Since driving routes and conditions are different for every fleet, so are tyre choices. Most fleets take a trial and error approach to tyre selection, ultimately finding the right level of fuel-efficiency for their needs. You should also of course encourage sensible driving and other key checks, such as wheel alignment. If wheels are misaligned, the engine is working harder than it needs to, and you will also pay a price for uneven tyre wear. And finally, all fleets should keep a close eye on tyre pressure, whether manually or automatically. Do this, and you will make a real difference to your fuel costs. 

We aim for our publications to be as accurate as possible, but they do not constitute legal or technical or professional advice. Please seek professional advice before taking any action. 

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