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Wherefore art thou, vocational truck retreads?

David Sickels is the Associate Editor of Tire Review and Fleet Equipment magazines. He has a history of working in the media, marketing and automotive industries in both print and online.

retreading-vocational-trucks-1400
Art by Tammy House

Retread tires and vocational trucks: Is it just me or is there a bit of a “Romeo and Juliet” quality to this tale – sort of a “we want to be together, but what will our fleet families think” kind of vibe?

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And, when that truck happens to be one working in one of the many rough-and-tough vocational realms like logging or construction, well, my dear Romeo, it seems there are those who would have you just drink the poison in the first act.

But, wait a minute, it’s 2021! It’s time we turn this tragedy on its head – and in this version, retreads and vocational trucks have an opportunity to ride off into the sunset, living happily ever after until the end of their days.

Sure, we all know that retread tires can be a great investment for trucks running over the highway, but what about for vocational trucks working in some of the grittiest, harshest environments?

To find out, we asked David Stevens, managing director for the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB), to set the record straight on a few of our most burning questions regarding spec’ing retreads on vocational trucks.

Is it riskier to spec vocational trucks operating in harsh environments with retreaded tires over other applications?

Stevens says no matter the operating environment, selecting the right tire for the right application is the same whether a fleet is choosing tires for over-the-road trucks or vocational trucks. And, fleets that aren’t spec’ing retreads are likely leaving money on the table.

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“Just as the new tire manufacturers have multiple new tire products to meet various demands, their retread arms and independent retreaders can meet those same needs through retreaded tires,” Stevens says

He says that retread solutions are available even for logging or construction trucks that can go both on the road and into challenging off-road forestry or construction sites, or waste and box trucks operating in high scrub and start-stop environments.

He adds there are those vocational applications such as waste hauling where a fleet could potentially retread a single tire up to seven or eight times or more, depending on the casing and tire history.

“All of the benefits that exist for on-highway trucks with retreads can translate to vocational trucks,” Stevens says. “Safety, performance and reliability? Check. Lower total cost of ownership? Check. Huge environmental savings? Check.”

Is the tire monitoring/inspection process more work for vocational trucks operating in harsh environments?

It’s understandable to think fleets choosing to spec retreads in harsh environments might be putting their drivers on the hook for more detailed, time-consuming tire inspections, but Stevens says this isn’t the case. The tire monitoring/inspection process is the same whether the truck is equipped with retread or new tires.

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“I’ll stress over and over again the importance of monitoring tire pressure and ensuring tires are properly inflated for the loads they are carrying,” Stevens says. “Kicking or thumping the tires was never a good option, and now that there is so much technology that can monitor and inflate tires, fleets really don’t have a good excuse for running their tires under-inflated and damaging their critical investment.”

Stevens adds that taking care of the tire casing is especially important if a vocational fleet intends to use it for the next round of retreading.

“If tires are run under-inflated, overloaded or are not repaired properly, you are damaging the casing and risking its ability to be successfully retreaded,” he says.

I’m intrigued, but how can you prove that I’m not rolling the dice by equipping trucks running in harsh environments with retread tires?

“Visit a retread plant,” Stevens answers. “Nothing helps prospects make up their mind faster than seeing the process with their own eyes.”

Stevens says that by visiting a retread plant, fleets that are on the fence can review retread options specific to their trucks with the manufacturer – and they might be surprised at what they learn.

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“Our retread members are proud of their retread plants and they would love for you to come tour their plant, learn more about the retread process, and discuss the tire solutions they can provide for your applications,” he says. “They often have case studies with fleets of a similar size/application in which they can demonstrate the lower costs and higher return on investment retreaded tires deliver.”

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