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Retread Tires for Big Trucks:
Cost Savings and Other Tips


In October 2011, Vicki became enlightened regarding retread tires. Up until connecting with @voiceofretreads on Twitter and tweeting back and forth a bit, she had always considered this kind of tire to be inferior to new ones. But she found out that's not true. According to information she has learned since then, some retreads can be even better than new tires!

Vicki followed the link to the website of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (Retread.org) and specifically to the Videos page (under the Resources tab). Then she watched this video:


Retread Plant Tour

We found this video fascinating.



The Tour

Several days before going to the Trucking Social Media Convention, Mike had had tire work done on the truck that he drives for his local truck driving job. While he was at the Augusta, Georgia-based repair shop, he learned that they have a tire retreading facility there.

The gentleman in charge offered to give Mike a tour of the plant. Mike suggested that since he and Vicki were going to be off on the Monday following the convention that perhaps they could take a tour of the plant together.

So, we arranged to take a tour. It was quite a bit like the video embedded above shows. In fact, we had a good feel for what we were going to see at the Augusta plant based on what we had seen in the video.

The work stations were as follows:

  1. Inspection (where 7 aspects of the tire are examined);
  2. Separation;
  3. Buffing;
  4. Saving and removing injuries;
  5. Repairing (if necessary);
  6. Cushion;
  7. Building a tire;
  8. Envelope for curing;
  9. Cure chamber (where tires are cured at a specific temperature for a certain length of time under pressure);
  10. Inspection (after curing where the same 7 aspects of the tire are examined); and
  11. Clean up and painting of the tire.

The Obvious Cost Savings

Our guide said that a retread can last longer than the original tread for 1/3 the cost. The problem is getting new casings. Furthermore, a retread tire is only as good as its casing.

According to AutomotiveDictionary.org, a tire casing is "The main body of the tire exclusive of the tread, tube, etc."

Retread.org has this to say about the cost savings of retread tires:

A retreaded tire costs less to produce than a new tire and sells for less - usually between 30 and 50 percent of the comparable new tire price. By using retreaded tires, the commercial and military aircraft industries save more than $100 million a year. Retreading truck tires saves the trucking industry over $3 billion each year. Retreading is an effective way to lower your tire costs, too.

... Most of the manufacturing cost of a new tire is in the tire body or casing. The tread (the portion of the tire that meets the road) represents only a percentage of the new tire cost. Today's steel radial commercial truck tires are an industrial product designed to provide multiple tread lives over the life of the casing. This useful casing life is monitored and managed closely by the tire owners as tires are the number one maintenance cost of operating commercial vehicles and on the road downtime is very expensive. ...


An article from Truck News stated:

... using retreaded tires is one of the most obvious ways to drive down tire costs and it won't necessarily increase roadside service calls. Manufacturers insist retreading procedures have vastly improved in recent years, with the use of high-tech imaging equipment, and retreaded tires are every bit as reliable as their brand new counterparts.


A December 2008 article on OverdriveOnline.com stated:

A top-brand new tire in two of the most common sizes often sells for $400 to $450 or more, says Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau. Compare that to $150 for retreading your tire casing or $200 for buying a recently retreaded casing outright and “it’s a no-brainer,” he says. The savings can easily exceed 50 percent, “which is why the best-run fleets in the world use retreads,” Brodsky says, citing Schneider National, Yellow Transportation, FedEx and UPS, among many others.

Furthermore, the major tire makers would not operate retread divisions and advertise that their tires are good for retreading unless the products were sound, he argues: "Those tires are designed for multiple lives."


We learned that another aspect of saving money by retreading tires is that the new tread can have a lower rolling resistance than the original.

You may wish to read information from the California Air Resources Board (ARB) on Low Rolling Resistance Tires. Also, the EPA has on its website information about SmartWay Verified Low Rolling Resistance Tires.

In an undated article from RubberNews.com, we learn (1):

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is continuing to talk with industry stakeholders about certifying retreaded tires for inclusion in the SmartWay Transportation Partnership, although there is no timetable for reaching that goal, the EPA said. ...





Requirements for Retread Tires

A discarded used tire, past the point of being retreaded.Our guide said that there is a point beyond which a tire can be retreaded: there must be a minimum of 4/32" to 5/32" tread left on the tire for it to be retreaded. This resource says that it's best to retread a tire between 6/32" and 8/32" of available tread. The discarded tire shown at right is past the point of being retreaded.

Our guide said that the number of times that a tire can be retreaded depends on the application:

  • A steer tire can be retreaded into a drive axle tire;
  • A drive axle tire can be retreaded into either a drive axle tire or trailer axle tire; and
  • A trailer axle tire can be retreaded into another trailer axle tire.

An old, cracked tire.Although it may be possible to repair some injuries to casing sidewalls, we imagine that the type of injury as is shown on this tire -- a huge crack in the shape of an arc following the curve of the sidewall -- is quite beyond repair.



Retread Tires as Steer Tires?

While researching on this topic, Vicki was surprised to learn something that she thought was carved in stone about steer axle tires. Bob Ulrich wrote an editorial piece on September 15, 2010 for Modern Tire Dealer entitled The myth behind using retreads on steer axles.

He wrote, and we verified, that Title 49, Part 393.75 (d) of the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Regulations does not prohibit trucks from using retread tires on the steer axle even though it does buses. He wrote that it is a "choice" but not a "mandate" that new and not retread tires are on the front axle of a truck.

Please note that Paragraph (e) of that same regulation specifies: "A regrooved tire with a load-carrying capacity equal to or greater than 2,232 kg (4,920 pounds) shall not be used on the front wheels of any truck or truck tractor."

The Tire Retread and Repair Information Bureau addresses the regrooved tire issue on its FAQ page by saying, "(TRIB does NOT recommend the use of regrooved tires on steer axle of any vehicle)".





Variety in Retread Tires

Tread designs vary greatly on retread tires.

Super single tires on a large truck tractor.The particular retread plant that we visited can also retread super single tires, specifically Bridgestone and Michelin tires.

"Super singles" can haul heavier loads but it is expensive to outfit a truck with them our guide said, and they are more expensive when there is a service call.



Quality Work

All of the technicians who work at the work stations within the Augusta retread plant are certified. The certification process takes about 20 hours to complete. We observed the ones who worked at the Augusta plant. Every tire was treated separately and specifically.



Environmental Factors and Costs of Retread Tires

Our guide said that it takes 48 gallons of oil to make one truck tire and retreading helps keep old tires out of a landfill.

Retread.org puts the figure for a new medium (not heavy duty) truck tire at 22 gallons of oil vs. 7 gallons to retread.

The "envelope" in which tires are cured in the curing ovens can be used 80-100 times.

The type of paint used on the retread tires is a light coat of ozone protective paint.



A Myth About Retread Tires

Tire tread blown.At one time, Vicki thought that most of those scrap pieces of large truck tire rubber on or alongside the roads were from blown retreads. However, that is not the case.

According to Frederic Ollendorff, segment product manager, Michelin Canada, "... the failure rate on a retread should not be any higher than on a brand new tire, if properly maintained."



Maintaining Retread Tires

The same Truck News article cited above stated:

Sadly, retreads rarely receive the same attention as new tires when it comes to routine maintenance. So while they may be every bit as well-built as new tires, their relative neglect means they are more likely to fail, which adds to the perception they're less reliable than new tires, [Brian Rennie, director of sales engineering, Bridgestone Canada] explained.

"The comparison is not fair," he pointed out. "The retreads that fail are probably, on average, less maintained than a new tire. Retreads are more likely to be placed on the trailer and if you look at the maintenance of the vehicle, the trailer probably receives the least attention. So the retread has an unfair disadvantage of failure."


As with all tires, retreads should be kept properly inflated to the manufacturer's specifications and tread depth should be measured at least weekly on the inside, center and outside of the tread.

Drivers should watch retreaded tires for signs of misalignment. Correct all alignment issues upon discovery.



For More Info About Retreading Tires

You may wish to read more About Retreading.

We learned about the average lifespan of a "drive tire in linehaul service" here.






truck drivers money saving tip icon

Money saving tip: According to a 2011 article on TruckingInfo.com, "Ken Bartos, maintenance director for Hoovestol, a postal contractor based in Egan, Minn., is averaging 160,000 to 212,000 miles at removal on the steers, and 450,000 to 550,000 miles on his drives."

You can calculate, based on your usage over the life of your equipment, how much you can save on truck tires by retreading them.

Maintain retread tires just as you would new ones. Just as you keep records on fuel usage, so you should keep records on your tires.

An August 19, 2011 .pdf document addresses Drivers Role in Controlling Tire Cost! In it, we read, "Many fleets today recognize the role the driver can play in maximizing their tire budget. Most have some sort of
incentive program for those drivers who can generate the most miles on their tires and can consistently get the best fuel economy by keeping their tires properly inflated ALL the time." We would be interested to know which trucking companies actually reward their drivers for maintaining tires well.

Learn which tread designs give the best performance in terms of wear, traction, low rolling resistance and other factors important to you.

Finally, a January 2011 article from Fleet Equipment addresses CSA 2010 and its impact on tires. Note the various penalties associated with tire problems. This alone should be incentive for every professional truck driver to make sure that his or her truck tires are in good shape, whether they are retreads or not.








References:

1. http://www.rubbernews.com/subscriber/headlines2.html?id=1270821950 (no longer online)



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