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!
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
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:
Inspection (where 7 aspects of the tire are examined);
Saving and removing injuries;
Repairing (if necessary);
Building a tire;
Envelope for curing;
Cure chamber (where tires are cured at a specific
temperature for a certain length of time under pressure);
Inspection (after curing where the same 7 aspects of
the tire are examined); and
Clean up and painting of the tire.
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
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.
of the manufacturing cost of a new tire is in the tire body or casing.
tread (the portion of the tire that meets the road) represents only a
of the new tire cost. Today's steel radial commercial truck tires are
industrial product designed to provide multiple tread lives over the
the casing. This useful casing life is monitored and managed closely by
tire owners as tires are the number one maintenance cost of operating
vehicles and on the road downtime is very expensive. ...
... 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
A December 2008 article on OverdriveOnline.com
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.
In an undated article from RubberNews.com, we
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. ...
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
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
axle tire or trailer axle tire; and
A trailer axle tire can be
retreaded into another
trailer axle tire.
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.
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
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)".
Tread designs vary greatly on retread tires.
particular retread plant that we visited can also
retread super single tires, specifically Bridgestone and Michelin
"Super singles" can haul heavier loads but it is
truck with them our guide said, and they are more expensive when there
of the technicians who work at the work stations within the Augusta
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.
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
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
Vicki thought that most of those scrap
pieces of large truck tire rubber on or alongside the roads were from
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."
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]
"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
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
all alignment issues upon discovery.
We learned about the average lifespan of a "drive tire in linehaul service" here.
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
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
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.
1. http://www.rubbernews.com/subscriber/headlines2.html?id=1270821950 (no longer online)