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Retread for Savings

Retreading tires can be a good way to safely stretch budgets, especially when today’s tires


October 18, 2011
By James Menzies

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When it comes to trucking, just about everything is going up in price . . . except for rates, that is.

When it comes to trucking, just about everything is going up in price . . . except for rates, that is. Tires are no exception, as they generally rank as a trucker’s third largest expense after wages and fuel.

retread-2-MRT 
Retreading can help improve your bottom line. (Photo courtesy of Michelin Retread Technologies)


 

A key ingredient in the production of any truck tire is petroleum, so it’s little wonder prices have been trending upwards in recent months. It’s now incumbent on the owner/operator or fleet manager to take a close look at total cost of ownership when selecting truck tires and to avoid the temptation to choose the lowest priced offering.

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“Cost of ownership goes from the day you purchase the tire to the day you scrap it and that includes how many miles you received on the original tread as well as retread before you finally dispose of the tire,” says Greg McDonald, engineering manager with Bridgestone. “If you save $20 on the front end and it never gets to the retread state, you’re losing a lot more on the back end than you’re saving on the front end.”

Road construction can be a punishing application for commercial truck tires, but that doesn’t mean they’re not candidates for retreading. While some operators stubbornly refuse to retread, their reasons are often based on outdated or inaccurate perceptions.

Affordable Options
Retreading technology has come a long way in recent years, says Harvey Brodsky, head of the Retread Tire Association (RTA), and really, can you afford not to retread?

“All major truck tire manufacturers design their tires for more than one life,” Brodsky points out. A new off-road truck tire may cost $500 but retreading the original casing will usually cost less than half that amount and a good casing can be retreaded four or five times, Brodsky claims. And with the advent of “application specific designs,” tires can now be retreaded for the specific application in which they’ll perform. A road construction tire, for instance, will receive a new tread that’s designed for that specific job. Roadbuilders have another thing going for them when retreading, Brodsky points out. Because road construction is typically low-mileage work, the casing should remain in good condition compared to a long-distance, over-the-road operation.

In many cases, Brodsky stresses, an operator should be able to get four or even five retreads on a single casing.

If you’ve lost track of a tire’s retread history, you can examine the sidewall to see exactly when and how often the tire has been retreaded. By law, every retreader must stamp the sidewall with a retread code that indicates when and where it was retreaded. The number of retread stamps on the sidewall is a good indicator of casing quality.

“Every retreader has to put a stamp on the tire that tells you who he is and when he retreaded that tire,” explains Tim Miller, commercial tire marketing manager with Goodyear. “If a tire has four retread brands on the sidewall, you know it’s been retreaded four times and that’s a good indication the casing did a good job for you.”

Still nervous about retreading? RTA’s Brodsky insists today’s top retreaders can produce a product that’s every bit as reliable as new rubber. If you want proof, he urges truckers to visit a retreader and ask about their adjustment records.

“Every single retread factory in the world keeps adjustment records. If they say they don’t, you wouldn’t want to do business with them,” he warns. “Those who keep adjustment records are proud to show them to you.”

Top retreaders, Brodsky says, will have an adjustment rate of less than 1%, which is better than those posted by the manufacturers of top-of-the-line new tires, he claims.

“New tire manufacturers dream of having an adjustment rate of under 1%,” he adds.

Brodsky urges every owner/operator or fleet manager to visit a retread plant to see how the procedure works. He’s more than happy to arrange such a visit (just call him at 831-646-5269).

Inflation Woes
In the meantime, there are other ways to get the most out of your tire investment. First and foremost is running them at the appropriate pressures. Overinflation is something roadbuilders should avoid at all costs, advises Doug Jones, customer engineer support manager with Michelin Americas Truck Tires.

“Usually if the tire is overinflated, you’re going to get irregular wear and rapid wear at the centre of the tire, so it’s going to be more susceptible to road hazards,” Jones says. “If you’re getting a lot of punctures, your pressures might be too high. If, on the other side of the coin, you run underinflated, you’ll get irregular wear on the shoulders.”

Truck operators should also consult with a tire professional to ensure they’re using the right tire for the job – especially when working a seasonal business like road construction. If the truck is put to work hauling freight in the winter months, it may have freight-hauling rubber on it, which is not necessarily conducive to the rigours of road building.

“For a lot of fleets, their core application may change,” says Michelin’s Jones. “Maybe they were primarily long-haul and they might now end up being regional or vice-versa, so the tire they had in the former application is not appropriate.”

If irregular wear continues to be a problem, yet tire inflation pressures are closely monitored, a mechanical issue with the truck may be to blame. In some cases, an easily repairable problem with the vehicle – such as improper alignment – will eat through hundreds, or even thousands, of dollars in tires before it’s identified.

“If there’s a problem with the vehicle, get the vehicle fixed before you put it back on the road,” suggests Bridgestone’s McDonald. “If the alignment is bad or there’s something wrong with the truck and all you do is replace the tires, you’ve guaranteed you’re going to ruin another set of tires. One steer tire will pay for an alignment.”


James Menzies is the Toronto, Ont.-based executive editor of Truck News and Truck West. He wrote this article exclusively for Aggregates & Roadbuilding.