AT vs. HT
It’s your job to help your customers choose the right tires for their truck needs.
Today, many consumers driving light trucks want the “tough, strong, big bad truck” look provided by aggressive All Terrain or Mud Terrain tires. In many cases this is form over function, and 99 percent cosmetic, as the only off road duty these tires will see is the occasional gravel or dirt road.
Also, many are choosing All Terrain (AT) tires with the 3 Peak Mountain & Snowflake for the promise of increased snow traction. Note, I said “snow traction” as the test parameters for the 3 Peak Mountain & Snowflake do not include ice traction, etc.
The 3 Peak Mountain & Snowflake, also known as the alpine symbol, indicates that the tires passed the ASTM F 1805 tire test on medium-packed snow in standardized testing conditions. You can find this test standard on the Tire and Rubber Association of Canada (TRAC) website.
So, an All Terrain (AT) tire with the 3 Peak Mountain & Snowflake symbol is not a modern winter tire that was designed and tested in a wide variety of winter driving conditions. It may only be equivalent to the “old time snow tire” that just offered better traction in—you guessed it—snow.
I am not trashing All Terrain (AT) tires with the 3 Peak Mountain & Snowflake. These tires will offer improved winter traction in some conditions, but they will never be equal to the traction and safety offered by a true winter tire.
Now, while the All Terrain (AT) tire may give consumers the look they want and the potential promise of somewhat better winter traction, is it the right tire for the application?
The answer to this very important question must come from you, the tire professional, and you must gather the information to recommend the right tire. Bear in mind, the right tire may not meet the cosmetic aspirations of the consumer, but it really is your obligation to make the right recommendation so the consumer, in turn, makes an educated choice.
On commercial light trucks in metropolitan areas, where the truck is driven mostly, or entirely, on highways and paved roads, an All Season Highway Terrain (HT) tire is the best choice. On paved roads, compared to AT tires, HT tires will give longer tread-life, better handling, and shorter braking distances, in both dry and wet conditions.
Also, HT tires have lower rolling resistance than AT tires and will provide better fuel economy. Based on fuel economy tests of HT tires versus AT tires, performed by reputable organizations, at today’s gas prices, a truck equipped with HT tires, doing 24,000 km per year, could save over $100 per year in regular gas compared to the same truck equipped with AT tires.
Bear in mind, many commercial light trucks do far more than 24,000 km per year, and so the savings will be greater. In addition, if it’s a fleet with 10 trucks, then the total savings will grow dramatically. This could generate significant savings for a company operating a large fleet.
Do the math with the information above, and you will see that properly equipping many commercial light trucks with HT tires for three seasons, and true winter tires for the winter, is the best solution for safety, and may not be as expensive as many think.