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Five steps to bring retread savings to vocational truck tire applications

Jason Morgan is the editor of Fleet Equipment. He has more than 14 years of B2B journalism experience covering the likes of trucking and construction equipment, real estate, movies and craft beer industries.

Rolling through rugged construction sites, cornering in cramped city streets, or tackling rough-and-tumble, stop-and-go refuse tasks, you demand performance from your vocational tires above all. While the ROI that their long-haul brethren reap from retreads is well documented, that same value prop can be true for vocational tires.

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And you don’t have to just take my word for it.

“The value proposition of retreading holds true whether measured in engine hours or miles,” said Glenn Stockstill, Michelin North America product category manager – retread, B2B product marketing. “Retreading recycles worn tire casings and extends their service life with every successive retread. Retreading lowers the total cost of ownership, of maintaining vehicles, whether that is measured in hours or miles.”

Staring down the barrel of uncertainty in the market, now is the time to cut as many costs as you can. So let’s look at how you can implement a tire retread program for your vocational truck applications.

Step one: Spec the right casing

Casing integrity is paramount when it comes to retreading. Step into a Bandag retread facility, for example, and you will see that the casing is put through rigorous testing pacing to ensure its retreading viability–everything from a thorough inspection by trained professionals to high-tech, bead-to-bead automated shearography scan. Successfully retreading a tire starts with buying the right casing for your application.

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“While long-haul fleets are primarily interested in fuel efficiency, vocational fleets want to choose casing and retreads designed for durability and efficiency as this is primarily what they encounter in high scrub, short-haul environments,” said Keith Iwinski, director of marketing, Bandag, U.S. and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations. “No matter the application, there is a retread  to help fleets fully maximize their tire investment.”

The first equipment spec’ing commandment remains unchanged: Know thy application. From there it’s onto the second spec’ing commandment: Know what thy supplier offers and is capable of delivering.

“Fleet managers need to consider if the manufacturer covers the casing after the original tread has run its course,” said Tom Clauer, Yokohama Tire senior manager of commercial and OTR product planning, advising that fleets ask how many years or retread cycles are covered.

This is where vocational retreads diverge from on-highway applications. Again, this all depends on the integrity of your casing, but here are a few expectation-setting quotes:

“When the integrity of the casing is properly maintained and monitored through proactive maintenance and a system like the Bandag Alliance System [BASys], the casing often can be retreaded numerous times,” Iwinski said. “Bridgestone frequently sees tires retreaded as many as six to eight  times in the waste segment, for example.”

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That may sound extreme, but is highly motivating when it comes to maintaining your casings. (More on that in a minute.)

Also remember that wear rates in applications will also impact the retreading rate.

“In the waste-haul segment, tires can wear faster,” noted Nick Davis, senior product marketing manager, mixed service, global OTR, The Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co. “Yet waste-haul tires can sometimes be retreaded up to five times if casings are properly maintained.”

“Depending on vocation, a tire can be retreaded up to six or more times,” Michelin’s Stockstill added.

Step two: We’re serious about selecting the right casing

The casing is the linchpin of the entire retread ROI. So we’re giving it another step because there’s a lot to consider. The first is the cost of a premium casing.

“Fleet managers should always consider tires as an investment in high-quality tire casings that are meant to be retreaded, not as a variable expense,” Michelin’s Stockstill said.

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There also are a number of casing variables that impact retreadability. Yokohama’s Clauer starts us off with a few to consider:

“Ensure the casing can handle the pre-cure size/width that fits your fleet best, and make sure the casings you have are the correct ply rating to handle the loads.”

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Michelin’s Stockstill noted a few other areas to examine:

“For those vocations that operate in a more harsh environment, it’s important to select a tire with features such as a more durable sidewall to help withstand impacts, cuts and abrasions; application-specific compounding to withstand abrasive conditions that contains a protector ply that extends across all grooves to help resist crown penetrations; and tread groove features to help provide defense against stone drilling and stone retention.”

Speaking of tread: The right tread pattern for your application will also aid casing viability in the retread process.

“The application the original tread model was intended for could have a major effect on how that particular casing was designed,” Clauer said. “For example, using a long-haul trailer casing for a heavy off-road drive retread might not be a good plan.”

“Vocational fleets often benefit from a wider tread platform,” noted Helmut Keller, Continental’s head of brand and product management for commercial vehicle tires in the Americas region.

Step three: Protect the casing

The threats that want to ruin your vocational tire retread dreams are numerous.

“From rebars to demo materials in construction sites, to curbs to potholes in urban operations, vocational operations have many threats for tires,” Yokohama’s Clauer said. “To avoid these threats, driver training is important. Educating drivers to be more aware and responsible can really reduce the amount of damage to the tires and equipment. Also, know the routes and jobsites and choose routes that are well maintained.”

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Proactive tire maintenance is also going to be another arrow in your casing protection quiver.

“Fleet managers and drivers should assess the condition of their tires and address issues in real time to prevent future problems,” Bridgestone’s Iwinski said. “Fleets should also understand the benefits of tracking tire performance. This is critical to ensure fleets get the most out of their tire assets. Fleets should work with a dealer partner that has the capability to monitor and record retread performance, repair history, inventory and casing rejection information in real time.”

Step four: Monitor tire inflation

This is a maintenance must for any application, but is doubly important when looking at retreading.

“The No. 1 thing fleets should monitor if they want to preserve their tire casings for retreading is tire pressure,” Continental’s Keller said. “When a tire is underinflated, the sidewall flexes significantly during rotation, causing it to build up heat and weakening the tire. Monitoring the tire temperature is a key metric to help warn of an impending tire blowout, which could lead to immediate costs from roadside service, time lost and late deliveries, as well as danger to the vehicle driver and other road users.”

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If you’re thinking, “That’s not my fleet. My tires are properly inflated,” it’s best to check that assumption. Again here’s Keller:

“On average, 34% of fleet tires are underinflated, according to data collected by Continental. A properly inflated tire experiences 15% longer tread life on its original life and 20% longer casing life for retreading, versus a tire that is just 10% underinflated.

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“Tires typically lose up to 2% of their air pressure every month,” he continued. “Worn valve stems and temperature changes can increase the amount of pressure loss, as can nail holes and other tire damage from demanding applications such as waste hauling or construction.”
Maintaining proper tire inflation to the best of your ability will not only allow you to reap retread ROI, but you’ll be able to heap tire life and efficiency savings on top of that. And who doesn’t love savings on top of savings?

Step five: Get ready to retread

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The retread tread options can be just as varied and specific as your original tire selection.

“For example, a construction fleet wants a tire that will deliver durability during some of the toughest driving conditions, alternating between on- and off-road environments,” Bridgestone’s Iwinski said. “In this case, they might choose a Bandag BLSS retread, which delivers a deep tread for longer wear with a specialized compound to decrease chipping and cutting. In the case of a waste fleet looking to resist high-scrub, start and stop environments, that fleet could turn to the Bandag BDM3 retread, designed with a proprietary tread compound for enhanced traction and stone rejection technology that helps increase tire casing life.”

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How do you know what’s right for you?

“To select the appropriate new tire design, it’s recommended that fleets consult a qualified expert,” Goodyear’s Davis said. “Goodyear has a broad product portfolio designed to fit all applications in the market. Additionally, Goodyear retreads provide consistent tread patterns and performance with their new tire counterparts and are offered for all positions, such as drive and trailer.”

Michelin’s Stockstill noted that Michelin retread options range from all-position, rib-type design, lug-type designs for the drive-axle position, and trailer-specific designs for heavy scrub environments, and recommended that when making your retread decision, it’s best to see the products for yourself.

“It is important to tour the retread plant to better understand the entire retread process, from reception by the plant at the initial inspection post through all the posts to include final inspection,” he said.

The circle of tire life

Follow those steps, and you set yourself up for vocational truck tire success, but then what’s next? You start all over again. Protecting your retreaded casing is just as important as protecting a new casing to get the optimal number of retreads and start shaving off tire cost of ownership.

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