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Retreading: The big fleets are doing it, are you?

TORONTO, Ont. - If you don't have a retread program, you're likely not getting the most out of your tire investment, according to both manufacturers and retreaders. Premium tire manufacturers design t...


NEW TECHNIQUES: A Bandag technician uses a shearography machine to detect small bubbles that are invisible to the human eye. Just one of many advances in retreading technology that the best retreaders now employ.
NEW TECHNIQUES: A Bandag technician uses a shearography machine to detect small bubbles that are invisible to the human eye. Just one of many advances in retreading technology that the best retreaders now employ.

TORONTO, Ont. –If you don’t have a retread program, you’re likely not getting the most out of your tire investment, according to both manufacturers and retreaders. Premium tire manufacturers design their casings with multiple retreads in mind, and the retreading process itself has evolved into a high-tech feat of engineering that ensures reliability and performance equal to that of new tires.

“Retreading is the most effective use of a casing that typically lasts more than one life,” Ralph Beaveridge, marketing manager, truck tires with Michelin North America, says. “They should be used whenever possible. Some of the old objections should have died a long time ago.”

The retread industry has been dogged by misinformation for years now, and nobody knows this better than Eugene Johnston, manager of business development with Bandag.

“There are those owner/operators who had a grandfather who was opposed to retreads because they remembered the days back before, when used tires or retreads didn’t always get the kind of inspections they needed,”Johnston says. “But the level of technology has dramatically improved.”

Retreaders have developed nondestructive inspection processes which allow them to fully evaluate the condition of a casing to ensure it will perform as well in its second life as it did in its first.

“Every tire that comes in for retreading is individually inspected at the beginning of the process and after the retreading,” Johnston explains.

Some of the relatively new technologies quality retreaders have at their disposal include: electronic nail hole detection systems that use an electrical arc to detect small holes not visible to the naked eye; an ultrasonic inspection system that detects separations in the belt package; and laser shearography systems that can detect tiny bubbles within the rubber, some of which may have been present since the tire was first manufactured.

This technology allows retreaders to weed out inferior casings before they are retreaded in the first place. As a result, tire manufacturers and retreaders agree a properly retreaded tire is just as reliable as one that’s brand new.

“Retreads are not more susceptible to separations than new tires,” stresses Beaveridge. “Those road gators that we run across as often as not are new tires and it’s because of poor tire maintenance and overloading tires which has created excessive heat.”

Bandag’s Johnston says most large fleets have now adopted retread programs, and as a result, some are achieving five or six lives out of their casings. (In specialized applications like refuse, attaining 10 or more retreads is not unheard of).

“There’s good reason for that,” he explains. “For most trucking fleets, retreading is critical to their tire investment. If they weren’t doing it, they’d be at a competitive disadvantage.”

The same goes for owner/operators, but many still have reservations about using retreads.

“There are many owner/operators out there who don’t want retreads on their trucks,” admits Greg McDonald, engineering manager with Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire. “They only own one truck and they have to maintain it themselves and they have the opinion that this is only going to have new tires on it. But if they have retreading done by a good, reputable retreader, especially on their own casings, then that’s an excellent way to lower their cost-per-mile.”

Johnston said another reason owner/operators are reluctant to embrace retreading is that they don’t have the tire inventory of a major fleet and they can’t afford to be without their tires while the retreading is performed.

“Owner/operators don’t tend to have inventory on-hand like fleets have,” he points out. “But if an owner/ operator keeps two full sets of tires on-hand at all times, then you can manage a retread program much more effectively.”

In fact, there may be an added bonus to running a two tire-set system, he points out. O/Os can run one set aimed at optimum fuel mileage in the summer and a second set with deeper treads for improved traction in the winter.

“Having two sets where one set at any time is a retread can be much more cost-effective,” points out Johnston. And then there are ‘stock’ retreads which can be purchased directly from tire shops and retreaders. Purchasing ‘cap-and-casing’ tires right off the shelf can reduce the downtime involved in having your own tires retreaded, and with advancements in non-destructive casing inspections you can rest assured the casing has not been abused by its previous owner.

“Any owner/operator can start retreading immediately by purchasing those,” Johnston says.

The most important thing when deciding to develop a retreading program is to be careful who you do business with. While the retread process has steadily evolved, not all retreaders have kept up with the technological advancements.

“Contact the retreader and take a tour of their shop,”advises Johnston. “Take a look at it and make sure you’re dealing with a reputable company. There are certainly bad retreaders out there, but there are much fewer than there used to be.”

Or, you can simply ask around and determine where the big fleets are getting their tires retreaded, adds Bridgestone Firestone’s McDonald.

“They’re not going to get that mega-service with big fleets if they’re not doing a good job,” he says. “Ask around -ask guys at the truck stops from the mega-fleets ‘Where does your company have its retreading done?'”

Another resource is the Tire Retread Information Bureau and its Web site, which is packed full of information on retreading. Visit www.retread.orgto access the site’s vast resources. •


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