With all the hype surrounding battery-electric and hydrogen-powered trucks, a discussion on retreaded tires may seem like yesterday’s news. But tires will be with us until they invent magnetic levitation or some kind of anti-gravity device. Even electric trucks will need tires, probably lots of them, so the future of retreading looks pretty good.
In the meantime, fuel-efficient retreads provide a great opportunity to lower tire costs while lessening the fleet’s carbon footprint. If that’s not your prime directive, saving money on fuel will probably get your attention.
“Many fleets today are looking for ways to maximize their tire investment, and advances in technology and design have made fuel-efficient retreads a smart choice for fleets,” says Johnny McIntosh, senior director, commercial services, Goodyear Commercial.
“Fuel-efficient retreads have lower rolling resistance and require less energy to roll at the same speed as other tires, which translates to less fuel consumption. They can also extend the lifespan of the casing and retread by producing less heat. Increasing the miles to removal also helps increase engine efficiency which can, in turn, lower emissions.”
Fleets that retread already and use fuel-efficient tires are more likely to embrace a fuel-efficient retread. One of the advantages is that developments in tread design often occur over the lifespan of the original casing. Tread patterns and compounds evolve, so fleets can take advantage of the latest innovations without the cost of a completely new tire.
“The casing contributes to roughly 60% of the tire’s fuel efficiency, which means optimum fuel efficiency will come from a program that uses fuel-efficient new tires to generate casings for retreading with fuel-efficient retreads, or recaps,” says Michelin North America’s brand manager for retreads, Coy Jones III.
Fleets switching from standard tire designs will still see gains from applying a fuel-efficient tread to a standard casing, but might not see the full benefit.
“You can use fuel-efficient retreads on a non-fuel-efficient casing, but you decrease the overall benefit,” Jones says.
What Are the Trade-offs of Low-Rolling-Resistance Retreads?
Fleets already in a retreading program will be aware of the trade-offs. They depend on the fleet priorities. If you strive for long tread life and low tire cost, a standard tread may be more suitable. If fuel economy is the priority, a fuel-efficient tread might be the best choice.
Historically, tires have been designed to achieve three primary objectives: traction, wear, and rolling resistance. A focus on any one of these areas required fleets to adjust their expectations on the others based on the goals of their tire program.
For example, a long-life tire was often designed to take advantage of higher-wearing tread compounds and patterns, but with a possible modest increase in rolling resistance or reduction in traction.
Retread manufacturers have worked to raise the bar on all three aspects of tire performance to allow fleets to focus on their primary objectives — fuel savings, increased traction, and maximum tire wear — without having to make significant sacrifices overall.
“There are no trade-offs in terms of performance between the two types of retreads,” says Jason Roanhouse, vice president, North American Bandag Operations, Bridgestone Americas.
“The real difference comes in the design of each tire and retread. Bandag has been innovating tire technology for decades and has developed tread patterns and features that suit the environment for the fleet.”
However, the gap between the two has narrowed significantly in recent years. In addition to the typically thinner tread, advances in compounding have, in many cases, increased miles per 32nd. If you start with half the tread, you’ll get fewer miles before take-off, but you’ll see fuel savings as well. The fleet will have to evaluate the savings associated with each option.
“You may have fewer miles with fuel-efficient retreads, but you save a few more gallons in the tank, which is a higher benefit for fleets and the environment,” notes Jones.
The Right Tire Tread for the Job
Like purchasing new tires, selecting the right retread really comes down to the application and preference of the fleet. There are options available in either a closed shoulder or open shoulder for drive retreads, and with or without a decoupler groove on trailers. There are also caps available for those running new generation wide-base singles, too.
Other factors also come into play that will determine which tire best fits the fleet’s needs, such as climate and type of cargo being hauled. Roanhouse says Bandag dealers can discuss all these factors with prospective customers and recommend a tire based on each fleet’s operation and specific goals.
“We understand that not every fleet’s needs are the same, so depending on the type of fleet, there is a Bandag option down to the type of tire available,” he says.
Developing these tire programs entails defining the types of products and treads best suited for a fleet’s driving conditions and range application. And with myriad options available, establishing a good relationship with a service provider can help simplify those choices.
“The key to a successful retread program is finding a trusted advisor and dealer who can help you determine the appropriate retread application, and subsequently, creating a customized and efficient tire program for their fleet,” says Goodyear’s McIntosh. “Tire purchase and related maintenance and labor costs are among top expenses for truck and fleet owners, making finding the right retread program essential for cost saving and fuel efficiency.”
Getting a retread that saves fuel, too, can only sweeten the deal.