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.

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“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.

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“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.
  • grease

    you are a retard i have never in my life had a virgin tire blow , all them tires laying on the highways are caps who are trying to fool except yourself

  • jon

    I just replaced my drives with virgin Firestones FD695+ drive tires. I moved a set of four used M720 bridgestone’s to the trailer. Of 5 axles, I have one axle with recaps. My mileage is up .3 MPG. (a little on the conservative side too there)

    That means I am saving $163 monthly on fuel. Over $8700 over the life of the tires. The extra expense of $2500 for virgins over recaps actualizes out to a $6200 lifetime savings in fuel alone. I only average about 6000 miles a month and the tires should get me 300,000+ miles

    Please, tell me how recaps are supposed to save me money again….

  • Grabba Gear

    Most of the large carriers and trucking outfits run recaps because it saves them money and makes sense for them because they have large fleets to maintain. It’s nothing for them to have a driver call in with a tire issue and to send out a repair posse. Meanwhile their driver with no choices or input, kicks back and waits. If that tire blows off and kills someone in the car next to him going down the road, it’s the company’s baby unless they can find away to pin it on the driver.
    This is a nice article, but misses many of the important details that matter to an owner operator. It doesn’t discuss the downtime and expense, other damage to the equipment or public safety issues that blown tires can cause.
    I’ve been both a company driver and owner operator so I can see both sides of this issue. But I have to say that for my money, I’ll put a virgin tire on and forgo a recap any day.
    Not to say a virgin tire won’t blow, but of the tires I’ve blown and thrown, ALL of them have been recaps. Most were on the equipment when I bought it, but a couple were tires I replaced with very little mileage on them. It was then I wised up.
    It’s not cheap replacing 16 of 18 tires, so I had to deal with it as best I could and as time and money allowed.
    This article does not discuss the downtime of having a tire blow 100 hundred miles out in the middle of nowhere in the middle of the night in bad weather, with high traffic and on a two lane road, let alone a highway. Most owner operators have gone through this I’m sure, so they get it. Where is that “savings” now?
    It doesn’t mention the secondary damage a blown tire can cause such as blown air bags, ripped off mud flaps, busted lights, or damaged cross members. Where is that “savings” now?
    It doesn’t address the public safety as you hear the tire blow, look out the mirror and see the gator go flying across the road and thanking god no one was next to you when it happened.
    It certainly cannot describe the feeling I had when talking to a family one day who told me they had lost a relative to a truck with a blown tire who happened to be next to it when it let go. Tell me, where is all the money “savings” now?
    And lastly, from my experience most of the gators on the side of the road ,I’d say well over 90% are recaps, so please stop with the smoke and mirrors.
    What matters most to a conscientious owner operator
    is getting that load to it’s destination as safely and quickly as possible, with NO downtime. That’s where the savings are.