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Mexican trucking industry slowly adapting to ‘intelligent tires’

More Mexican trucking fleets should use tires with radio chips to save time and money, experts say

Jesus Granados, CEO of software development firm Setenal, said Mexico’s trucking industry has been slower to adapt to fleet-optimization technologies such as radio frequency identification (RFID) chips.

While fleet telematics utilization has been on the rise in the U.S. and European trucking industry for years — helping carriers boost their bottom lines, improve driver satisfaction and increase security — Mexican firms are just beginning to jump into smart technology, Granados said.

“One point that you have to consider is that setting up RFID requires additional expenses and for many companies here in Mexico it’s not in the budget to install this kind of technology,” Granados said. “RFID, this technology is not well known in Mexico yet.”

Granados also said many Mexican trucking companies see tires as a necessary expense rather than an investment.

“Trucking companies don’t see tires the same way that they do about fuel. Most trucking companies are much more worried about fuel, about fuel consumption, about fuel performance,” Granados said.

Setenal is based in Guadalajara, Mexico. The firm was founded around 2006 and develops systems to monitor the use of cargo and passenger transport tires. Setenal has worked with everything from large national trucking companies with thousands of trucks to smaller companies across Mexico.

“Our solution is focused on helping fleets to improve tire investment by generating comparative analytics between brands, models and routes,” Granados said.

RFID chips are a type of tracking system that utilizes radio frequency technology to transmit data from the chip to a reader, which then transmits the information to an RFID computer program, according to camcode.com.

RFID chips, which wholesale cost as low as $5, are frequently used for merchandise, but they can also be used to track vehicles, pets and even patients with Alzheimer’s disease.

RFID chips can be inserted inside tires during the manufacturing process or placed onto the tire assembly afterward. Commercial truck tires range in price from $200 to $500, depending on the brand.

In the commercial trucking industry, RFID chips can assist fleets in addressing tire issues such as correct tire pressure, tread wear, damage and other safety risks, Granados said. 

“We are not just providing data, we are generating savings by helping companies to define operational policies,” Granados said. 

Tire maintenance — for both tractors and trailers — is one of the trucking industry’s major expenses, representing about 2% of overall costs, according to the 2020 Analysis of the Operational Costs of Trucking study by the American Transportation Research Institute (ATRI).

Companies that use RFID chips in their commercial truck tires include Michelin, Cooper Tires, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Bridgestone Tires, Komho Tires, Continental Tires and Pirelli Tires. 

All of Michelin’s (OTCMKTS: MGDDY) commercial tires contain RFID chips, according to Mary Ann Kotlarich, Michelin’s commercial public relations director. The company uses RFID chips to help support tire life cycle usage analytics in services such as Michelin Tire Care.  

Kotlarich said she did not have specific information about Michelin’s commercial tires in Mexico, but the company has 239 customers in the U.S. and Canada that utilize Michelin’s Tire Care service across 664 locations.

“On these service agreements, 66,534 vehicles are contracted to receive the tire care service,” Kotlarich said. “Tire care inspections help identify signs of low tire pressure, irregular tire wear and uneven tread depths, which increase the life of the tire. In addition, customers are seeing extended life in their casings, which allow for additional retreading.”  

In the Mexican trucking industry, there are currently about 184,774 trucking companies, according to recent data from Mexico’s Ministry of Communications and Transportation (SCT).

More than 81% of trucking companies in Mexico have one to five trucks; 15.9% have six to 30; 2% have 31 to 100; and 0.6% have fleets of more than 100 trucks.

In Mexico, tire maintenance can be even more important than in the U.S., according to Granados.

“Mexico is different in terms of the situation in trucking because Mexican roads are not the same as U.S. roads. We have different different types of roads. We have rural roads in all types of conditions down here,” Granados said.

Another consideration for the Mexican trucking industry is wear and tear on tires from driving at higher speeds. In Mexico, the speed limit on federal highways is 70 mph, but the speed limit is not strictly enforced and is often ignored by drivers, Granados said.

“The trucks are able to drive over 85 miles per hour easily here. Those speeds affect tires,” Granados said. “The drivers are breaking the law, but those who do that don’t care about it.”

Granados said he expects more of the Mexican trucking industry to adopt RFID chip technology when they understand how much money they can save. 

“Right now they are not aware about tires and tires means a lot of money,” Granados said. “If you have a company with 1,000 tires, each tire costs $500, you have $500,000 invested in tires. It’s a lot of your money.”  

Granados also said RFID chips can help the transportation industry by reducing environmental waste by cutting down on tires being disposed of in dumps and landfills.

“We also help to reduce operational risks by keeping track of tire conditions like pressure and damages. Another important area is pollution and the environment, because we help companies to extend tire mileage, which reduces tire waste,” Granados said.

Click for more FreightWaves articles by Noi Mahoney.

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Noi Mahoney

Noi Mahoney is a Texas-based journalist who covers Mexico cross-border trucking, logistics and trade for FreightWaves. He graduated from the University of Texas at Austin with a degree in English in 1999. Mahoney has more than 20 years experience as journalist, working for newspapers in Florida, Maryland and Texas. Contact nmahoney@freightwaves.com

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