Retreaded tires are used by 83 per cent of American fleets and 67 per cent of owner/operators, according to research recently conducted by our own Transportation Media division. Some fleets reportedly have eight retreads in their fleet for every new tire.
So why is it that the retreading industry is still shrouded by a cloud of misinformation?
Truck News contacted several tire experts in an effort to debunk some common retreading myths.
MYTH: That gator on the road must be a retread.
Don Schauer, manager of fleet communications with Bandag, admits when truckers see a gator lying on the side of the road, many automatically assume it’s a retread.
"They see the tread design and think they’re peeled retreads," Schauer points out. "But if you see wire – and you always will – you will see the entire tire came apart."
Agustin Baez, general manager of Oncor Operations with Bridgestone/Firestone, adds "One of the most common myths about retreads is that the rubber pieces you see alongside the highway come exclusively from retreads. Rubber scraps on the road come from both new and retreaded tires. Almost always, they’re the result of improper use or misapplication, road hazards – like impacts or stone perforations that cause tires to go flat – overloading, underinflation, defects in workmanship and other causes."
MYTH: I have to run retreads at 10 psi less than the original tires.
"Wrong-o!" Schauer emphasizes when he hears this one.
Retreads should be inflated to the exact same psi as the originals.
Jan Lahman of Michelin Tire Corporation says "Michelin would recommend a pressure using the appropriate load/inflation table. The same recommendation would be used for new tires or retreads."
Chuck Yurkovich of Goodyear was quick to agree.
"Maintenance is just as important to retreads as it is to new tires," he says. "To maximize performance and to increase the potential for the tire to be retreaded a second or third time, it is important to maintain proper inflation in the tire."
Yurkovich adds the tire casing doesn’t know what kind of tread is on it – a new brand new one or a retread.
"Running retreads at a lower psi than new tires is more likely to cause problems than solve them," adds Bridgestone/Firestone’s Baez.
MYTH: My application is too rugged for retreads.
Whether you’re hauling heavy loads in the oilpatch or pulling logs out of the bush, there’s a retread option that’s up to the task, says Schauer, "If you have the proper tread with the proper inflation."
Application-specific tires can be retreaded just like normal highway tires and the fleet or owner/operators will achieve the same benefits, Schauer insists. He adds Bandag recently worked with a log hauling company just 25 miles from the Canadian border that found it could chain up 15 per cent less frequently while realizing a 20 per cent improvement in tire wear thanks to its retread program.
Retreads are also effective in extreme weather conditions, whether it be the desert in July or the ice roads in February.
In fact, only the steer tires on buses are not legally allowed to run retreads, points out Yokohama’s technical service director, Greg Cressman. Baez says many fleets still opt to use new tires on their steer axles but he says in most cases, retreads could be used. Cressman says the key is to start with the right tire for the job.
"Take into consideration your application," he says. "The application is vital as far as retreading is concerned. There are various different applications you can have – over the highway longhaul, over the highway regional, on- and off- road – all those types of applications are extremely demanding of the tires in different ways. If you have retreading in mind, you have to start off at the right point with the right tire."
Cressman said the only applications where retreading may not be feasible are when the tire receives a lot of casing abuse or penetration.
MYTH: I’m an owner/operator. I can’t afford the downtime to have my tires retreaded.
Retread companies are going to great lengths to improve their turnaround time and keep O/Os on the road while their tires are being retreaded. A common practice among owner/operators is to make an appointment with their retreader in advance. They can generally drop their tires off on a Thursday night and be ready to hit the road with fresh treads by Monday morning.
Or, they can switch to a second set of casings but Schauer says most O/Os prefer to run their own casings. There are also some express tire shops opening up (such as Speedco, now owned by Bandag), which provide expedited service.
Even if an owner/operator has to incur some downtime to have his tires retreaded, the benefits will likely still outweigh the costs, tire manufacturers insist.
"Retreading a medium truck tire costs only about 30 per cent of the cost of a new tire and a casing can be retreaded two, three or more times depending on casing quality, tire maintenance and retread quality," Baez points out.
MYTH: My tire manufacturer doesn’t do retreading so it’s probably not recommended.
Yokohama isn’t in the retread business but the company says its tires are still built with retreading in mind.
Cressman says his company has designed a retread-friendly tire and its dealers are well-trained in retreading even though the company doesn’t offer the service itself.
"We have retreadability in mind all the way through with steer tires, drive tires and trailer tires," says Cressman.
"One thing the driver or fleet manager can do is get to know your dealer so you’re on the right tire to start with. Get the advice of your local dealer on a variety of tread patterns that are available."
Operators should work with their original tire supplier as well as their retreader to identify the best tire management plan for their specific application, Cressman advises.