There's always one truck component that can fail well before the schedule dictates. Fleet tire costs are the wild cards in the game of cost control. For many fleets, the most expensive variable cost next to fuel is tire maintenance and replacement. This is particularly true in severe-duty fleets.

To manage this seeming black hole of time and effort, many fleet managers focus their efforts on the development of subcontracting relationships with tire dealers who perform audits and maintenance. Passing on the fieldwork to the tire man may seem like a good idea. But fleet managers may change their outlook on outsourcing tire maintenance recording when they examine Snapshot, an automated fleet tire survey system developed by IMI Inc., Chambersburg, Pa. Snapshot was designed by a tire dealer as a way to increase its service staff's inspection efficiency. By using the system, mechanics can complete a truck audit in about 10 minutes.

The controller's software prompts the mechanic to collect specific tire data. The mechanic also can verify the tire size, make, manufacturer, and retread design for each wheel position and record any comments about tire condition or wear.

The system also includes two other automatic measurement tools: an inflator that adjusts each tire to the recommended air pressure and a tread audit probe with which the mechanic measures the tread depth from four positions.

When the mechanic completes the fleet inspection, it's possible to download data to create reports using a special software package that comes with the system. The system offers a wide range of standard management reports.