At the CV Show 2014, contract hire and rental giant Ryder announced it was renewing a five year tyre supply contract with Bridgestone, covering most of its fleet of 25,000 vans, trucks and trailers. Ryder has exclusively used Bridgestone rubber for over 20 years, but 2014 was a watershed in the two companies’ relationship, which became a true partnership rather than just a long term supply agreement.

Ryder’s head of maintenance strategy, Philip Martin (pictured below right), says: “In the renegotiation we essentially changed the focus to service. We are now working together to get the most from the tyres but also to get the uptime because ultimately that is what our contract hire customers require.”

The proof has been in the pudding – in the first year of the partnership, Ryder saw tyre-related calls to its national breakdown service NBS fall by 28% while its tyre costs have fallen.

“The big shift in the last 12 months has been focus on husbandry,” continues Martin. “We bought Hill Hire in 2011 and Euroway in 2012 and they were on different tyres. So for a period of time we were integrating them and bringing them into the Bridgestone portfolio.

“Once we got through that, the next step was to improve the uptime.”


Ryder has 28 depots across the UK and use more than 500 franchised dealers, OEMs or independents to service vehicles in remote locations. Bridgestone covers the UK through its 350 Truck Point tyre service providers, and Martin says that this national coverage is vital.

“Bridgestone’s capability to service our customer base across the UK was most important for us when we were working through this arrangement,” says Martin. “Their 350 agents are key to this because we can give that husbandry at the point of use and in the event that something happens roadside we can also guarantee response time for the customer.”

Bridgestone’s fleet manager Ian Baker (pictured below left) is responsible for the Ryder partnership. “We have on record now something like 1,100 fleet operating locations [Ryder customers] so we have mapped over 1,500 locations for fleet inspections by our Truck Point network,” he says. “The level of service depends on the size and customer activities at each site. Some locations get a visit in the morning, at some we have technicians on site all morning and at some we are working on site five days a week. Ryder’s workshops have someone there five and a half days a week.”


Not every Ryder vehicle uses Bridgestone tyres. “Some customers look after their own tyres – the big national companies may decide to use a different tyre solution,” says Martin. “So there are around 18,000 vehicles [7,000 trailers and 11,000 powered vehicles] on our list from light CVs to tractors and trailers.”

Before the Hill Hire acquisition, Ryder had very few trailers. “That was a massive culture change and learning curve for everybody in looking after trailers as well as powered vehicles,” says Baker. “That was a challenge – we did a lot of planning for the transition of Hill Hire from their tyre partner [Bandvulc] to us. We had a six month build up and there were no issues at all with the 11,000 vehicles that came over almost overnight - that was part of the reason we got into the partnership we have now.”

Contract hire with repair and maintenance is Ryder’s core business, though it does also offer long term and spot rental. “All our rental fleet tyres are maintained by Bridgestone,” says Martin. “Our contract hire customers may decide to look after their own tyres. We can demonstrate through working with Bridgestone that we have a really good, solid effective tyre service. But we are not complacent and I want to keep pushing it forward. We are constantly looking at ways we can work together and innovate. The end result of all this is more uptime for our customers.”

A large part of the success of the partnership has been educating the key people within Ryder and its customers about tyres.

“The education process started over a year ago now with the Ryder people first,” explains Baker. “As a partnership we can identify where Ryder is spending money buying too many tyres. Each location gets a visit from one of our service operations managers who identifies the person responsible for tyres. At every visit, we inspect the casings that have been removed since the last visit with the responsible person and the lead tyre fitter from the allocated dealer.

“Was it removed for the right reason? Was it at the right tread depth? We agreed on nine training modules, including tyre law and repairs, for the tyre responsible person and the allocated tyre dealer to do together so they have more confidence to debate if a tyre is at the removal level, can we run it another few weeks or can we repair it. The 28 Ryder locations are the easy targets – over 30% of the fleet gets serviced at those locations.”


Having a consistent policy on when a tyre needs changing and communicating that to Ryder and its customers was essential, Baker says.

“It is all about seeing the tyres before they need to be changed and identifying the right time to change them,” he says. “It is also about educating the operator that 4mm is OK because we were getting a lot of calls saying ‘the tyre’s worn out, you need to be here’ at 7 o’clock at night.”

Martin adds that making the Truck Point dealers responsible for their Ryder and customer locations was another key step. “It is about the focus on husbandry and making it clear to each dealer that is your patch and you are looking after those clients,” he says. “Then it is about being proactive rather than reactive. That is where I believe the step change has occurred.”

Baker adds: “There is nothing worse than a distress call for a worn out tyre. It hasn’t just worn out. We are collaborating closely with Ryder to ensure that the removal policy is consistently applied across the business.”

Bridgestone also has the two auditors looking at vehicles going off-fleet and identifying tyres which should be removed because they still have a lot of tread depth. “Doing that changeover brings that rubber back into the Ryder business rather than going with the vehicle,” says Baker.

Bridgestone Ryder pressure

The third part of the process is checking vehicles on the yard that have just been serviced by Ryder’s own staff. “We make sure the pressures have been corrected or that the opportunity hasn’t been missed to turn the tyre on the rim, again to extend the life of the tyre,” he goes on. “We have recommended increasing the pressure in the 385 trailer tyre, and that has helped a lot on reducing roadside breakdowns. We found that a trailer tyre tends to lose pressure through its life and then on a warm day with low pressure, we all know what happens.

“We spent several days in 2013 at the main Ryder locations doing pressure corrections and communicating the new higher pressure for trailers.”

Education extended

Now the partnership is in its second year this education process is being extended to the key customer fleet locations. “Most Ryder workshops now have a very good knowledge of how to maximise the tyres so step two is to expand that,” says Baker. “Ryder has gone from, many years ago, fitting their own tyres and only having service from us at the roadside to a proper partnership now where we do all the service and fitting too. The journey we are on has been going for almost 20 years.”

There is a Bridgestone “implant” at NBS in Devizes who picks up the tyre work from the breakdowns that are phoned in, passes the job to the allocated Truck Point dealer and logs the reason for the call.

“We also have our own fitters at the Bradford hub which is a big trailer location and at the defleet location in Horwich [near Bolton],” says Baker. “We also have the two service operations managers full time on Ryder, so we have four people involved in the management of the partnership and two fitters.”

Bridgestone purchased pre-cure [cold cure] tyre retread specialist Bandag in 2006 to sit alongside its mould cure [bead to bead hot cure] retreader Bulldog, and retreads play an important part in Ryder’s tyre policy.

“We fit retreads in every wheel position that we can,” says Baker. “The policy is new on steering axles and on the majority of the fleet the drive axle is retread. On the trailers, when we took on Hill Hire fleet there was 98% fitment of retread super single 385s on the third axle, but that was not sustainable in terms of casings.

“So we decided that for a couple of years we would invest in fitting new tyres to the third axle to generate casings. We review that every year. At the moment on the rear axle we are at 52/48 retread/new fitment. If I go back to 2010 when I started working with Ryder it was 70/30 in favour of retread so we are putting more new tyres on but it has been shown to be the right approach.”

He says that the partnership is not short of drive axle casings because “at the moment we have the luxury that the steer and drive axle tyres are the same size”.

“That will be more difficult in future with Euro-6 when there will be different tyres on the drive and front axles, he goes on. “I have been in the industry long enough to remember when you could move casings from steer to drive to trailer axles which was utopia for a retreader but now it is getting more difficult. At the moment we have plenty of casings except in a couple of odd sizes.”


According to Baker there has been no resistance from Ryder’s customers to its 100% Bridgestone policy. “That was one of the major surprises with the Hill Hire integration,” he says. “Because Hill Hire wasn’t a major new tyre user there were lots of different brands of new tyre being used. We got some very positive feedback from some of the large fleets saying it was good to see a constant brand on the fleet.

“I have never heard negative comments about Bridgestone but did have to have conversations with some fleets about the move from a bead-to-bead to pre-cure process on the retreads. When we gave them the facts and figures and factory tours they were happy – it is a policy Bridgestone has had for many years.”

Ryder currently averages 96% adherence to the Bridgestone/Firestone tyre fitment policy. “Most of the other 4% is when we have a distress call for some of the van tyres, when we would fit an equivalent brand to get the vehicle moving,” says Baker.

Inspection inspection inspection

Regularly checking tyres are in good condition is key to maximising their life and avoiding breakdowns, so a good inspection regime is vital.

“The driver is responsible for checking his tyres daily, that’s the first level,” says Martin. “Then we have our technicians supported by the Bridgestone dealers, so when you layer all these up we do the right action at the right time.”

Baker is not in favour of asking drivers to check tyre pressures, however.

“Personally I would rather that drivers do not check the tyre pressures, just visually check the tyre is inflated and round,” he says. “One or two people in the business think drivers should check pressures and tread depth but I think that if you start putting on pressure gauges, particularly on the rear wheels, then you can cause more problems than you solve.”

Bridgestone Ryder panel

Bridgestone inspects Ryder’s tyres every month, rather than trying to coincide with the vehicle’s periodic maintenance inspection ((PMI). “It’s very clear then we have captured the data – if it starts going six weekly it can get missed,” he says. “You always get some extended PMIs now that go out to eight or 10 weeks – if we do a tyre check every month we can predict the wear more accurately.”

But the tyre pressures also should be checked and corrected at the PMI, Baker argues. “Making sure they are corrected is part of what we do because as an industry I’m not sure they are corrected when the vehicle goes in for maintenance,” he says. “At Ryder we can now prove they are not only being corrected but are now set to the pressure in the guides. In a big operation like Ryder it is difficult to make sure the communication gets to everyone it needs to. When we changed the recommended pressure for the trailers we supplied 20,000 stickers to go over the wheels.”