Goodyear Dunlop Europe Plans RFID Trials for Bus Tires

By Claire Swedberg

The manufacturer, already tagging race truck and trailer tires, is now eyeing other commercial markets for the technology, in order to leverage its FleetOnlineSolutions program to share tire data between itself, owners and service providers.

Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe expects to conduct field trials of tires in the commercial sector later this year, similar to the way it has incorporated EPC Gen 2 passive ultrahigh-frequency (UHF) RFID tags into the tires it manufactures in Europe for truck races, as well as for truck trailers used for hauling cargo. The upcoming trials are expected to include the tagging of bus tires. The deployment of radio frequency identification technology is part of the company's FleetOnlineSolutions tire-management program, designed with the help of British software firm Datalinx, to capture and store data regarding individual tires. By logging onto the FleetOnlineSolutions Web site, tire owners, service providers and Goodyear Dunlop can share that information.

The company first tested the racing tire RFID application in 2009 on racecars at the British Touring Car Championship (see British Touring Car Championship Tracks Tires). Field trials involving the trailer tires were performed in 2011, including on the tires of the 3,100 trailers operated by logistics services provider Ewals Cargo Care.

Boris Stevanovic, marketing director of Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe's truck tires division

Goodyear is using the tags it already builds into some of its tires for its own purposes, as well as to benefit customers. "There is a need for RFID, both in manufacture and use," says Boris Stevanovic, the marketing director of Goodyear Dunlop Tires Europe's truck tires division. The tags—which have been installed in all the company's European truck racing tires (Goodyear 315/70R22.5), and in Goodyear Regional RHT II trailer tires (size 435/50R19.5)—are read at multiple points along the manufacturing process, in order to provide work-in-progress data. The tire company also utilizes the tags to identify certain tires arriving at its stores or service providers for retreading.

End users can read the tags to track tires used on fleet vehicles, such as company trailers, or at European truck-racing events. According to Stevanovic, the Regional RH II trailer tires being tagged are the most common size in use for trailers that fall within the European Union's 4-meter (13.1-foot) height limit. However, he declines to reveal the quantity of RFID-enabled tires in use in Europe.

The technology is also being used for theft protection, Stevanovic says, noting that tires are expensive and relatively easy to steal from parked vehicles. Thieves typically remove ID numbers printed on tires, and it can thus be difficult for police to identify stolen property, or to trace tires back to their rightful owner. On the other hand, the presence of an RFID tag embedded in the tire (which is labeled to indicate the tag's presence) serves to deter thieves, since it provides law-enforcement agencies with a tool for identifying tires, and that information could later aid in prosecution.

For end users, such as trailer fleet managers, the tags can help with maintenance management as well. European regulations require that commercial vehicle tires be regularly checked for air pressure and overall condition. What's more, tire owners must maintain a record of these maintenance activities—whether completed by their own staff, or by a service provider—typically by manually writing down the serial number printed on each tire's sidewall. However, Stevanovic says, those numbers can often become scuffed away.

With FleetOnlineSolutions, users can access the database and view a tire's history. Service providers can also read a customer's contract details and technical requirements in their local language. The system software can automatically generate appropriate invoices, order additional stock and ensure that customers are charged according to their agreements, and are invoiced accordingly. Customers can also access the system to monitor their accounts.

The tires' built-in EPC Gen 2 passive UHF tags can be read using a handheld RFID reader, and data can then be input indicating the particular service or inspection being provided. Furthermore, tire-pressure and tread-depth gauges can send measurement results to the FleetOnlineSolutions system via a Bluetooth connection, and those measurements will then be stored along with the tire's unique identifier.

Each tire tag, with a unique ID number encoded to it, is built into the tire's rubber during construction. The tag is read several times throughout the tire's manufacture, in order to identify its location and status during construction. The tires can then be read by service providers and end users via handheld readers as they are inspected, maintained or sold. The tag IDs, along with related inspection, maintenance and sales data, can be transmitted via a Wi-Fi connection from the handheld reader, or by a cabled connection, to Goodyear's Web-based FleetOnlineSolutions software, which interprets and stores the data, along with that tire's unique ID. That information can be accessed by Goodyear (for example, when a tire is returned for retreading), as well as by the tire owner, or other authorized parties.

This year, Stevanovic says, Goodyear Dunlop Europe plans to continue conducting field trials in parts of Europe for the city bus segment. What's more, he adds, the company may consider other applications as well, in an effort to continue broadening its offering of RFID technology and the FleetOnlineSolutions system to its customers beyond the racing and trucking industries.

Currently, RFID-tagged tires are produced at Dunlop's headquarters in Birmingham, in the United Kingdom, as well as at Goodyear Dunlop factories in Luxembourg and Germany. Truck racing tires are also exclusively supplied to trucks participating in the FIA European Truck Racing Championship, which takes place at circuits across Europe, and will next year include Turkey for the first time. The Goodyear RHT II RFID trailer tires are generally available throughout Europe.

In North America, Stevanovic says, Goodyear has been utilizing a built-in RFID tag in its Goodyear Longhaul Drive G572 (size 11R22.5) tire for commercial trucks since January 2011. That tag is being used for inventory tracking and tire management. Five years prior, Goodyear rolled out a tire-leasing program for NASCAR and is using RFID tags to track the tires from the point of manufacture to the moment they are scrapped. (see Goodyear Using RFID for NASCAR from Cradle to Grave).