Scottish bus operator, JMB Travel, has adopted a Continental Tyres only policy on its fleet of service buses, following impressive trial results against its former tyre choices.
Speaking on behalf of the family-owned firm, Martin Bell, a director, said, “We ran two other very well-known brands for quite some time, using both their premium and economy tyre offerings across the fleet, so long as we had absolute confidence in their safety. The problem was felt that we were not getting the tyre mileages and performance we should. Even thinking of change was a big decision though, because safety is paramount in what we do. I read an article in the press about a highly successful fellow Scottish bus and coach company, Whitelaws Coaches, which had just switched to Continental. I knew George Whitelaw, so called him up to get his thoughts. He couldn’t have been more enthusiastic about Continental products and service, so, just over 20 months ago, we contacted Continental Tyres to trial them for ourselves.”
For service bus operations like JMB Travel which run schools’ contracts as well as tour-coach operations, nothing is more important than safety, so the trial was as balanced and searching as could be.
In late 2016, the company had taken delivery of a number of new Alexander Dennis Enviro 200 single decker buses for its service fleet, and Martin decided to run head-to-head trials between existing tyres and Continental products, fitting two of each the new arrivals with the competing brands.
Martin said, “We had a great opportunity for a really fair comparison, running identical buses on identical routes with virtually identical annual mileages. And to make sure we gave both brands a fair outing, we ran them for a whole year – so around 90,000 miles on each of them.
“At the end of that time, we had results that were unquestionable: the Continental tyres had produced significant mileage improvements, some 30,000 more miles without a change than the other brand on test over that period, as well as delivering excellent performance in terms of day-to-day damage resistance. Add the fact that we no longer need to worry about different steer and drive axle tyres, the Conti Urban HA3 does both jobs really well, and you can see why our decision has been an easy one!”
The tyres used in the trials, and now in use across all 40 of the service bus fleet, are Continental’s Conti Urban Urban HA3 M+S P245/70 19.5 tyres. These are produced specifically for urban bus work, designed to deliver genuine advantages in that demanding stop/start, short distance environment. The latest version of the the Conti Urban HA3, which has a dedicated urban tread compound, optimised tread void ratio and a 20 % increase in sidewall thickness, is said by the manufacturer to deliver up to 20 % more mileage and 2 % less fuel consumption compared to its forerunner, the HSU 1. The all-weather M+S version has a wide tread width to enhance cornering stability under urban driving conditions, with a high density interlocking pattern for outstanding wet grip.
So successful has the trial and first year’s actual running been for JMB Travel, the operator has already started to put Conti Urban HA3 295/80 22.5 tyres onto its coach fleet for local UK touring work. “We have no doubts whatsoever about the conversion to Continental products,” confirms Martin Bell, “and as old tyres are run-off the coach fleet, we now happily fit the appropriate HA3s on them – two vehicles have already been changed over. We also run a number of double-deckers on schools’ contracts, and again, as the old tyres come off, we are looking to replace with Continental. From every angle – safety, performance, economy – we are sure we have made the right choice.”
Other than the routine ‘walk-round’ checks by drivers of their vehicles, JMB Travel fleet engineers also carry out tyre and light checks on the fleet at the operator’s gate, as each bus or coach goes out to work. In addition, independent checks are being carried out fortnightly to confirm the wear and other performance characteristics of the firm’s new Continental tyres. In truth, talking to Martin Bell, this is all as much about safety as economics. “We have enormous confidence now in the Continental products, but just can’t allow our fleet to go out without these checks,” says Martin. “We owe it to passengers, pedestrians and every other road user out there. My wife and I have family of our own, so we simply set the highest standard we can and hope other road users do the same.”
The company, owned by Marin and his wife Jennifer, has been in operation for just over ten years. Jennifer is the one with bus and coach work in her veins, having had a father in the operating business. Starting with just half a dozen service buses, the mixed fleet has now grown to over 70 vehicles, and the couple are happy to consider ongoing growth. “We both love the business,” smiles Martin, “and will keep on investing when the right opportunities come along.”
Local tyre dealer, Auchinlea Tyres takes care of the routine delivery of replacement Continental tyres to JMB Travel, though the operator keeps at least a dozen new tyres in stock at all times in its own workshops. “We get good service form Auchinlea,” Martin confirms to us, “but we also have attentive service and ongoing interest from local Continental Tyres manager, Guy McDowall. He takes a personal interest and keeps us informed on any further beneficial services, such as dealing with our used casings and giving us a Fleet Rebate through the Conti scheme.”