(ARA) - Everyone, has an opinion or two on the economy and whether it will improve. Some cite stock market trends. Others point to consumer confidence numbers. Many crank out complex charts and colorful graphs to validate their claims.
Rick Phillips studies the trends on the commercial trucks rolling down the road for his answer.
Phillips is the director of commercial sales at Yokohama Tire Corporation, which makes a variety of truck and car tires. According to Phillips, one sure fire way to tell if the economy is on the upswing is the proliferation of 18-wheelers carrying goods and products across U.S. highways.
"More trucks on the move means business might be finally picking up. More products are being produced, sold and transported, which will generate more jobs," says Phillips. "It's a good sign to see so many big rigs in use."
Phillips has a unique perspective: he sells commercial truck tires. "At Yokohama, we're seeing more truck tire sales lately. Our dealers are clamoring for more."
The rise in truck tire sales is drastically different than it was a few years ago when the economic meltdown occurred, says Phillips. "The trucking industry was one of the first sectors to get hit by the recession. Companies slowed down manufacturing and consumers stopped buying. Everything came to a grinding halt."
Phillips noticed the demand for truck tires perk up some in 2010. "We were at a large trade show in Louisville, Kentucky - and it was packed. Fleet owners and independent truckers were taking note of the new tires we introduced there. They were a little cautious, but I could tell business would pick up because there was a lot of pent-up demand in the industry."
Flash forward to 2011, and Phillips and Yokohama were once again displaying new tires at a trade show. "We introduced our 101ZL, a tire that gets great mileage so it helps truckers save fuel costs, and the response was great. Suddenly, there was a stronger demand for truck tires. The trucking industry was in overdrive, and to me, that's a good omen for the economy," says Phillips. Another positive indicator for Yokohama Tire is the usage it is seeing on its Inflation Pressure Calculator tool, which it recently launched last month. "The feedback has been favorable, with fleet managers and operators using the tool to effectively manage the trucks they have on the road," he adds.
With news that economy is picking up steam in 2012, it looks like Phillips' outlook might be right on the money. Strong economy or not, consumers in passenger cars can save money by simply checking and maintaining their tires. Here are some of Phillips' money-saving tips:
* Keep your tires properly inflated. Once a month, when the tires are cold (at least three to four hours after the vehicle has been driven), check tire pressure with a reliable tire gauge. Be sure the valve stems have a plastic or metal cap to keep dirt out and seal against leakage.
* Tires must be replaced when the tread is worn down to 1/16 of an inch to prevent skidding and hydroplaning. An easy test: place a penny into a tread groove. If part of Lincoln's head is covered by the tread, you're driving with the proper amount of tread. If you can see all of his head, you should buy a new tire.
* Built-in treadwear indicators, or "wear bars," which look like narrow strips of smooth rubber across the tread, will appear on the tire when the tread is worn to 1/16 of an inch. When you see these wear bars, the tire should be replaced.
* Visually check your tires for signs of uneven wear. You may have irregular tread wear if there are high and low areas or unusually smooth areas. Consult your tire dealer as soon as possible.
* Tires should be rotated at least every 6,000 to 8,000 miles and the alignment should be checked once a year. Misaligned tires can cause the car to scrub, which lowers mileage and causes unnecessary tire wear.
* Slow down. For every five miles per hour you go above 60 mph, you're lowering your gas mileage and, ultimately, paying even more for each gallon of gas.
For additional tire care
and safety tips, visit www.yokohamatire.com