CONTINUING EDUCATION: Retreaders' biggest challenge according to Bandag's Greg Filer is educating fleets on tire maintenance practices.
TN: What would you consider the main challenges facing your fleet customers today when they are spec’ing tires?
Filer: Fleets are doing everything they can to analyze their current tire maintenance programs to ensure they are getting maximum performance from their tires.
That holds true not only for the new tire but also the retread. They are looking at every opportunity to reduce their costs. They are looking at best mileage performance and also at opportunities to control fuel costs.
TN: In your view, is the average Canadian motor carrier sophisticated enough in its tire selection and tire management strategies to get the most out of retreading? If not, what are the most common issues that need to be addressed?
Filer: I have found many of our Canadian fleet managers are very sophisticated when it comes to tire knowledge.
However, in those instances where the individual making the tire purchase decision wears so many hats that his focus and tire knowledge is limited, they can and should rely on a knowledgeable tire supplier for the information and guidance that will help them maximize their tire program. Bandag dealers in Canada and their account representatives generally have years of training and tire experience.
They view the fleet’s tires as assets and can help the fleet manager maximize the return on those assets with tire maintenance and management programs that are bench marked against the industry’s best practices.
TN: About 40 per cent of fleets are starting to use tires from Asia, according to our research. How retreadable are you finding these products to be?
Filer: We are certainly starting to see some of these products entering the North American market. We realize we need to understand these products a lot better than we currently do.
We are working hard to capture the information but the problem is we can’t get our hands on a large enough group of casings to determine how these casings perform. So scientifically we don’t have the answers yet.
The data on them is just not sufficient enough to determine just how good they are. The jury is still out on that.
TN: What else would you consider a major challenge for retreaders and how is Bandag responding to those challenges?
Filer: There’s many challenges we face as retreaders, but as it relates to our fleet customers, our biggest challenge is ensuring that fleets have the best maintenance practices in place so that we have something to work with once a tire has gone through its initial life and begins to move into its retread life. That requires making sure that all the necessary pieces of the puzzle fit together so that the tire maintenance program is efficient and does the things that it is designed to do. We are very vulnerable as retreaders because if the tire is not maintained it makes it a lot more difficult for us to retread it. Beyond that, there are many things that are squeezing retreaders right now. There is not only a North American but a world-wide shortage of available casings. The other thing is that as retreaders we are all being punished on commodity pricing. Our raw material costs are essentially things we don’t have control over and as a result we have to pass them on to our franchiser dealer network and ultimately on to our fleet customers.
TN: Can anything be done, perhaps through other areas of your operation, to help mitigate the impact of rising materials costs?
Filer: We’ve done a number of things to try to reduce costs. We’ve introduced new buffing capabilities that fully automate the removal of the old tread off the casing. All we need to do is dial in what type of casing we are about to buff and the machine takes it from there. The other thing that we’ve done is employ a casing inspection capability where we use non-destructive technology called shearography. The casing goes through the shearography prior to buffing and if the casing is determined to be non-retreadable we’ve reduced the amount of handling required for that casing.
TN: Your Application Specific Advantage Program (ASAP) was designed to move Bandag from an “internally, product-driven development approach to an externally, customer-centered approach.” Can you elaborate on the program and how it is helping you become more customer-centered in your product designs?
Filer: The application-specific product has been good for our fleet customers because before we introduce any new application-specific product it goes through a significant amount of testing and comparisons to not only other Bandag products but also to the performance of the best-in-class tires for that application. When the fleet customer moves to an application specific product from Bandag he can do that with a great deal of confidence that he is getting the best return on his tire investment.
TN: Bandag is well known for its variety of tread designs. Why do you focus on having such variety?
Filer: Again, this ties into our application specific philosophy. We have a variety of tread designs because different fleets have different needs and ways of ranking performance. In Canada, for some fleets traction is the most important criteria. Other fleets look for wear mileage or fuel mileage. Over-the-road and vocational fleets have different tread design needs. Even vehicle configurations, like single-axle trucks, might result in a different tread design selection.
TN: Many of Bandag’s tread designs include MilEdges, which are a result of the Micro-Sipe process where thin sipes are cut across the tread surface. Can you elaborate on the advantages of this tread design?
Filer: There are a couple of reasons we went to MilEdges. Trailer applications were running into problems both in the new tire and retread end with diagonal wear. MilEdges was a design to reduce that by reducing the tread face on the tire. Also, with MilEdges we increased the braking surface. MilEdges also offered reduction in heat, which is the number one problem for tires. Reducing the amount of heat a tire is subjected to by even small amounts we can increase the performance of that tire. MilEdges are mainly used in trailer axle applications and to a smaller degree in the drive axle position.
TN: Two years ago Bandag launched two new tread products — the Drive Mixed (BDM) and Bandag All-Position Mixed (BRM), molded from a new group of compounds for the refuse and construction industries. It was said that they could increase tread wear by up to 20 per cent. Can you explain what it is about the design and/or materials used that provide such improved performance and what the field results have been to date?
Filer: It is a significant improvement. This was driven by the waste industry which is under tremendous pressure to reduce costs yet is so hard on tires because of the stop and go nature of the operation and all the heat build-up from constant braking and twisting and turning. We worked very closely with the industry to find a way to address that. It took a while to bring those products to market but the success we are having with these products was worth it.
With BDM and BRM we are helping those fleets get a better return on their tire investment.
TN: What’s new for on-highway fleets?
Filer: We introduced the Mega Tracks design, which is a long-distance highway design. Fleet customers were looking for high mileage performance for their tires. A tire is a trade-off. If you want it to perform well in one area it’s going to compromise performance in another area. The long distance applications may not need high traction capabilities so the Mega Tracks tread has been designed for that kind of application and the feedback from customers has been very positive. One of the things we’ve noticed is that when you introduce a tire that performs well in one area and not as well in another, there tends to be a learning curve for the operators and the management of the company. With application specific products we focus on wha
t the fleets want to do and where they want to go.
– Next month’s issue will feature the conclusion of our exclusive interview with Bandag’s Greg Filer.
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