Resuscitating rubber

USING RETREADED TIRES on Class 7 and 8 truck fleets not only saves money, but also allows a fleet to promote its environmental awareness.

Besides costing as little as one-third of the price of a new tire, retreads consist of up to 85% recycled materials (the worn casing itself). Because of the lower cost and heavy use of recycled materials, all government fleets are now required to use retreads. Details can be found in Federal Executive Order 13149. A copy can be downloaded at www.retread.org.

Here are some guidelines to help select a quality retreader.

First, review the retread industry. A good source of information is the Tire Industry Association, PO Box 37203, Louisville KY 40233; phone 800-426-8835; fax 502-964-7859; or e-mail: [email protected]. Another is the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB), 900 Weldon Grove, Pacific Grove CA 93950; phone 888-473-8732; fax 831-372-9210; or e-mail [email protected]. TRIB's web site, www.retread.org, also has information about tire retreading and tire repairing. Each of these organizations will provide basic details about the retread industry.

Next, visit the prospective vendor's factory before deciding. Basically a manufacturing operation, retreading starts with the worn casing, which is prepared and then retreaded.

Marvin Bozarth is an internationally recognized retread expert, and in his career has been a truck driver, fleet manager, and tire retreader. “I tell fleet managers to not buy anyone's product until after they have visited the plant,” he says. “There are a number of different retreading techniques that are used, all of which can provide satisfactory results when employed by a top-quality retreader.

“People ask me all the time which system (mold-cure or pre-cure) is best. All will do a good job and provide a good quality product, if done properly. The retread will only be as good as the care and quality of material used to make it,” says Bozarth.

When visiting a vendor's factory, look for a clean, well-organized shop. Pay attention to the casing inspection area. This is where incoming casings are checked to be sure each is structurally sound and can be retreaded. Ask to see the non-destructive testing equipment. This lets the retreader determine whether the casing has structural damage. A good casing, with no structural damage, can usually be retreaded two or three times.

Ask for a list of customers the retreader currently serves. Try to get names of fleets that have operations roughly similar to your fleet size and type of trucks, miles driven annually per truck, and operating area.

“If the retreader can't give you several references, he probably doesn't have any customers who know he is doing a good job,” says Bozarth.

With retreads, the buyer is purchasing more than just tires — he is also buying service. Ask how quickly the retreader can turn around tires, what his warranty is, and what type of pick-up and delivery service he provides.

“The retreader has to be able to meet the fleet manager's service needs for the relationship to work. Use the retreader for more than a tire supplier. Consider him a consultant to the fleet and use him,” says Bozarth.

“A good retreader knows what is working for other fleets and what isn't working. He can advise the fleet manager about changing tire specifications, application-specific tread designs, tire maintenance procedures, and even driver training to increase tire life,” says Bozarth. “I wouldn't deal with a retreader who couldn't or wouldn't provide this information service to the fleet manager.”

Limit the initial purchase contract to three months. After this initial period, negotiate the price and service contract on an annual basis. The three-month trial period is long enough to determine if the retreader can meet the fleet's needs, without the fleet making a long-term commitment. Once the retreader has shown it can service the fleet, an annual review should be enough to assure that the fleet is getting the best price and services.

If any major change occurs in fleet operations that can affect tire wear, make sure the existing retreader can meet future needs. If not, find a new retreader.

“It is a mistake to think that what works today is going to work forever,” says Bozarth. “The retreader has to be able to meet the changing needs of the fleet.”

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