How to start and stick with a retread program

| October 08, 2013
Retread art 1B

It’s now possible to spec a tire’s original tread pattern, so performance characteristics should not change from when the tire was new.

 One prevalent frustration in the commercial tire industry is that many owner-operators remain suspicious of retreads. As a consequence, they lack a coherent used tire program – and experts say they simply are throwing money away.

Part of the reason for the suspicion is the myth that all “alligators” – blown tire parts on highways – come from retreads. In reality, up to 75 percent of them are new tires or tires in their first life, says Mark Totten, vice president of sales and marketing for Goodyear’s Wingfoot Truck Care Centers. Moreover, fleets with basic used tire programs easily can save a minimum of 50 percent on three cycles of a tire’s four-cycle life.

“New tires today can be retreaded up to four times after their initial tread life ends,” Totten says. “The cost of a retread tire is half that of a brand-new tire.” Totten says the math is simple: Buy a new tire for full price, and once it wears out, it can be retreaded for half the initial acquisition cost. “You can do that up to four more times,” he says. “The savings are significant.”

A tire’s first life should begin on the steer axle, and as long as the casing is preserved, it can be retreaded for two cycles on the drive axle and one final life on a trailer.

The cost of retreading a tire can be less than half of its initial purchase price, says Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Retread Tire Association. Buying a tire from a top-tier supplier can cost about $500 – or $2,000 for a full set of drives. Once a tire’s first life has ended and the casing has proven it’s durable and has sustained no road damage, that tire can be retreaded for $200 or less, Brodsky says.

Tom Fanning, Continental Tire the Americas’ director of replacement sales, North and Central America, says retreading also saves oil and other natural resources required to create a replacement tire; it also reduces the tire contribution to landfills.

Related: 7 ways to spend too much on tires

“This can be very important for fleets interested in reducing their carbon footprint or who have specific environmental targets they would like to meet,” Fanning says. Many of today’s retreads also are engineered to reduce fuel consumption. “With careful selection, fleets won’t miss out on the reduced rolling resistance that used to be found only with new tires,” he says.

Today’s retread tires retain all the characteristics of new tires, Totten says. “You can spec the exact same tread patterns on the retread tire that came on the tire when it was new,” he says. “There is absolutely no degradation in terms of performance or efficiency when running retreads.”

They call Brodsky “The Preacher” because he is so passionate and outspoken about the value of retread tires in commercial trucking and his unceasing campaign to convince owner-operators to give them a chance. Odds are if you’ve made a late-night run with your stereo tuned to a trucking radio station, you’ve heard Brodsky and his distinctive Philly accent, urging truckers to reconsider what they think they know about retread tires and to give them a fair shot as a business solution.

Related: 4 tips on buying a used truck

“There is not a major fleet in this country that doesn’t use retread tires today,” says Brodsky. “That’s a lesson that owner-operators need to take to heart. If you’re an owner-operator, you’re trying hard to scratch out a living. Every penny counts, and so owner-operators understand better than most the importance of saving money. Every dollar they save in their business goes straight to their bottom line.”

Here’s how to start and maintain an effective retread program that could save thousands of dollars over the lives of four drive tires:

  • PARTNER WITH A TOP-QUALITY COMPLETE-SERVICE TIRE DEALER. This will help ensure reliable products and good warranty support.
  • FIND A RETREADER YOU CAN TRUST. The Retread Tire Association can supply a list of reputable retreaders in your area. Alternately, many top-tier tire manufacturers have their own retreading programs that guarantee you will receive your own initially-purchased tires back as retreads. Take the time to tour the facility and judge the quality of the process.
  • PURCHASE THE BEST TIRES YOU CAN AFFORD. Top-tier manufacturers design their tires to last multiple lives.
  • ROUTINELY MONITOR TREAD DEPTH. Steer tires should be retreaded when tread depth gets to 6/32nds, and drive and trailer tires at 5/32nds. The potential for retread-limiting road hazard damage increases at tread depths below 4/32nds in all tire positions.
  • STICK TO A TIRE MAINTENANCE PLAN. Assuming no road damage to the tire, it’s not uncommon for an owner-operator to retread a drive tire twice, getting three lives in the drive position, and then do a final retread for service in a trailer position. The savings can work out to about $900 each time a retread is chosen over putting new shoes on your rig; that yields an approximate life savings of $2,700 per tire – more than $10,000 for a set of drives. Keep written records of each tire by serial number with dates of purchase, retreading and position.
  • CONSIDER JOINING THE RETREAD TIRE ASSOCIATION. Members can be jumped to the head of the line for retreading, mounting and balancing tires during downtime. Turnaround averages two days, but same-day service is possible.

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