With its marketing focus redefined to be a one-stop shop for trucking fleets, Bridgestone has rolled its Bridgestone, Firestone and Dayton business and the recently acquired Bandag retreading operation into a single business unit,
Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions (BBTS).

Headquartered in Bandag's headquarters in Muscatine, Iowa, the new business will direct its efforts toward fleets through a new management structure that supports the tire dealers and truckstops from the Bridgestone side, and the franchisees from the Bandag side, resulting in the largest truck-tire distribution footprint in the nation, says BBTS.

Bridgestone Firestone dealers include the company's truckstop partners, ensuring that fleets get support on the road as well as at the home terminal. And with the Bandag business, fleets will be able to channel retread business through their established tire dealer/supplier.

The Bandag acquisition was announced a year ago at the dealer sales meeting Bizcon11 in San Francisco. The name and structure for the new enterprise was revealed at this year's Bizcon12, held this week in New York with an unprecedented near 1,000 dealers and franchisees attending.

To support the extended, newly extended distribution, BBTS has divided the country into eight regions - up from four - so regional managers may more easily relate to the distributors in each region. Further, there is a new level of responsibility for the truck fleets to help the newly formed BBTS get much closer to end customers - where the rubber hits the road.

"Virtually every time we asked our dealers what we could do to deliver more value, the answer was consistently the same," said Art Campagnone, vice president of sales. "We needed to be more fleet-focused and less concerned with filling our dealer's shelves. More time with the fleets, less time with the dealers." To achieve the required coverage, within the organization of BBTS, there are now three distinct marketing channels: OE, Truckstops and National Fleet.

Additionally, Bridgestone Firestone is bringing more of its research and development to North America. "We are building a larger TBR research and development group in Akron to better understand the North American market and improve performance quality," said Duke Nishiyama, Chairman, Bridgeston America, in the opening remarks at the meeting.

Campagnone said the combined package of new tire sales and retread services would better help dealers and distributors move fleets from being price purchasers to operators who better understood the benefits of the lifetime value proposition. As an example, Sing Ahluwalia, BBTS president, sales and marketing for Bridgestone Firestone, said the new organization is now also better able to address fleet concerns for fuel economy with new tires designed to deliver fuel savings over the first tread life and then consistently deliver further savings with Bandag's fuel-efficient FuelTech retreads.

Future Technology

Resident tire guru Dave Laubie presented some of the behind-the-scenes development going on in new tire designs, specifically in nano-technology projects.

Nano technology is sub micron engineering of molecular structures that enables the development of very specific performance from a material. In the case of tires, Bridgestone is refining the synthetic rubber molecules to engineer better bonding between the rubber molecules and the carbon black in such a way that the molecules have less friction between them. In the overall structure of a finished tire, this will mean less heat generation and therefore more fuel efficiency.

Much closer to reality is the release of a hexagonal tread block design for the company's ultra-low profile, wide-based Greatec. The block has greater rigidity both laterally and longitudinally and has tested to show a 30 percent reduction in wear over the current design. The next step, said Laubie, is to evaluate the fuel efficiency performance to make sure it is still up to the current savings possible with the 445/50R22.5 Greatec currently in the marketplace.

This tire is the competitor to Michelin's X One, though Bridgestone does not tout it as a fuel saver, but more as a weight saving opportunity for bulk hauling fleets. However, in a technical breakout session, Guy Walenga, technical service expert and a major contributor to the ATA's Technology and Maintenance Council, said the tires do bring fuel savings along with lighter weight. And the new tread block will also improve mileage, he said.