“I really wish every fleet had a deep understanding of the benefits of what retreading can do for their operations, because they are huge,” says John Boynton, who oversees operations for Southern Tire Mart.
According to Dustin Lancy, Goodyear commercial product marketing manager, speaking on behalf of Goodyear Commercial Tire & Service Centers, now may be a perfect time to look more closely at those benefits. “Amid the economic challenges brought on by COVID-19, we are starting to see many fleets gravitate toward retreads in order to delay the more expensive purchase of new tires,” he says.
We asked Modern Tire Dealer magazine’s 2020 Top 10 Retreaders for their thoughts on what fleets should know to help them have a successful retread program.
1. Today’s Retreads Are Not Your Father’s Retreads
“We’ve all heard the story, ‘I ran retreads 20 years ago, and one came apart and took out Uncle Buck’s fender,’” says Howie Harding, vice president of sales for Service Tire Truck Center. “Technology and maintenance practices are ever-improving. You owe it to yourself and your business to get the educated facts before ruling out retread use.”
As John D. McCarthy Jr., president of McCarthy Tire Service, puts it, “Retreads do not fail simply because they are retreads. As with new tires, retread failure typically occurs due to outside factors that can and cannot be controlled.”
Boynton agrees. “Often a bad experience happens on the road that is perceived to be a retread-related issue, but on further investigation you realize it’s not a retread-related issue,” he says. For instance, it could have been curbed and not reported, and that caused problems later on. “If you can get that tire back and look at it, most retreaders and tire distributors can walk through and see what happened to that tire, what caused it to fail.”
Many of these major retreaders recommended that fleets tour a retread facility to get a better idea for the extensive process involved in making today’s retreads.
“Do a shop tour, go into the manufacturing facility and learn about the process — what do they do to inspect the tires, to get them prepared for retreading?” Boynton says. “Understand the process. I think when they do that, they realize there’s a lot to it that goes on to ensure they are getting the same high-quality product to put back into the fleet as if they bought a brand-new tire.”
Many fleets, Harding says, have false opinions about how a retread is made and what factors contribute to a failure. “We find those opinions change once people see the nine-step [Michelin Retread Technologies] process. This is where confidence levels increase and facts replace perception.”
Steve Phillips, director of tire sales and plant operations for Love’s, says the company invites fleets to visit one of its retread plants. “Fleets should always ask questions about the plant’s quality assurance process and the warranty offered on retreads, casings and repairs,” he recommends.
2. Proper Maintenance and Inflation Are Vital
Just as they would for new tires, “fleets need to implement proactive tire maintenance practices for retreads, including monitoring tire inflation pressure before each haul and checking for any visual or underlying casing damage,” says Keith Iwinski, director of marketing for Bandag, the part of Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations devoted to retreading, included on the MTD list as GCR Tires & Service. “Tire maintenance and care are critical to the reliability of any tire, and improper maintenance can result in tire failure.”
In fact, he says, analysis of tire debris collected along roads and highways in recent years shows that tire failure causes are consistent, regardless of whether the tire was new or retreaded.
“It’s important for fleets to implement a tire management program to monitor and maintain proper tire inflation, which is one of the leading causes of tire and casing failures, and regularly conduct visual inspections that can help prevent costly breakdowns and downtime,” adds Goodyear’s Lancy.
3. There’s More to Retreads Than the Tread
“The retread process has evolved significantly over the years,” says Iwinski. “Through the introduction of new technologies and innovations, the retreading process has shifted to focus on the entire casing, not just the tread of a tire.”
In fact, Service Tire Truck Center’s Harding believes one of most overlooked topics related to retreading is casing asset management.
“It’s critical for the customer to be directly involved in developing the [casing] criteria,” he says. “This allows them to weed out unwanted casing brands, set limits for casing age and number of times retreaded, and limit repairs within the casing by quantity, size and placement. There shouldn’t be a one-size-fits-all when it comes to casing specs and repair limits. Casing and repair specifications will vary based on application, but one thing is certain — having well-thought-out specs will improve retread reliability, reduce potential failure, and ensure you’re not overinvesting in your retread.”
4. You Can Save More in the Long Term
To determine the cost-effectiveness of retreads in their operations, says Goodyear’s Lancy, “fleets should balance the lower cost of retreading versus purchasing a new tire with the number of miles of service that can be gained from each retread.”
Managing a tire over its complete lifecyle is where real savings can be generated, says Bandag’s Iwinski, rather than the transactional practice of simply buying a low-cost tire.
“By leveraging retreads as a tire solution, fleet managers can begin to see cost savings after a casing is retreaded for the first time, and those savings continue after the second or third retread,” he explains. Some fleets have lowered tire costs to less than 1.5 cents per mile, well below the industry average, he says, using retreads.
Knowing the real cost per tire can help fleets realize that a tire that costs less to buy up front may cost them more in the long run.
Some low-quality new tires, often made overseas, cost less than even a retread. While not all tires made in China fall into this category, retreaders say that is where many very-low-quality tires are coming from.
“Cheap Chinese tires are summed up by ‘you get what you pay for,’” McCarthy says. In many cases, he says, these tires have no warranty or U.S.-based product liability insurance, and local manufacturer representation may be hit-or-miss, “depriving fleets of an important resource they can use to improve operating costs.
“A fleet’s perception of, ‘We wreck a lot of tires so there is no sense spending the money on a good tire,’ is more often than not disproven by an out-of-service tire analysis,” he adds. “Many fleets do not wreck as many tires as they think, and an impact that destroys a cheap import tire may not have demolished the more strongly constructed Tier 1 or 2 tire.”
5. Retreads and Fuel Efficiency Go Hand in Hand
Most of the premier retread manufacturers already have Smartway-verified retreads for both the drive and trailer position, notes Harding. “They’ve all made significant enhancements over the years, which has not only improved fuel economy, but extended the runout miles as well. I would say that most on-highway fleets have moved towards a Smartway-verified retread that provides a lower rolling resistance, which allows them to save on fuel, be in compliance when traveling into California, and brand themselves as contributors helping to reduce the overall carbon footprint” of the industry.
In fact, McCarthy says he is seeing a shift to closed-shoulder or all-position treads on drive tires for fuel-conscious fleets. “These designs provide the longest removal mileage and best fuel economy.”
Fuel-efficient retreads will only become more important as the next phase of the greenhouse gas/fuel economy regulations kick in.
6. A Relationship With Your Retreader Can Help
“To ensure a quality retread, fleets should start with a consultation from a reputable retread provider,” says Goodyear’s Lancy. “There are many options available on the market, and it is essential for fleets to find the right product for their specific application in order to get the desired performance out of a retread.”
Finding the right retread for your application is not the only way a good retreader can help make your retread program a success.
“A good, high-quality retreader can catch problems before they turn into dollars,” Boynton says. For instance, the retreader may notice a trend in casing problems that could point to using the wrong tread in an application, with the new tires the fleet is running, or with their maintenance program. “Really dialing it in very well is going to be paramount to maximizing the savings a fleet will enjoy with retreading.”
Boynton says Southern Tire Mart is working with more local and regional fleets that want the company to handle not only their tire program, but also light mechanical and maintenance work.
Similarly, says Love’s Phillips, “We see fleets increasingly demanding ways to monitor and inspect tires and retreads as part of a comprehensive preventative maintenance program to reduce costs and downtime.”