Bottom Line
Retread resurgence

By David Tanner
staff writer


Airlines use them, and they’re popular among bus companies and truckers in the medium-duty market. Whenever the economy is in turmoil, more over-the-road truckers turn to them, according to a spokesman in the tire retreading industry.

Retreaded tires are alive and well.

With credit markets freezing up in 2008 and wallets stretched, retread and remanufacture markets tend to pick up, says Harvey Brodsky, managing director for the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau, a clearinghouse for all things related to retreading.

“Historically, and let me find some wood to knock on, retreading does quite well in bad times,” Brodsky told Land Line.

Brodsky’s passion for retreads spans the horizon on environmental, historical and economic grounds. He says the industry is as green as any out there and has adapted with new technology to keep up with the times.

“It’s not your grandfather’s retread,” he said.

Retreaders boast that consumers can save 50 percent or more compared with new tires.

“You multiply that by 18 and the number of vehicles, and that’s a ton of money,” he said.

Tom Weakley, director of the OOIDA Foundation, said many owner-operators and small-business owners consider retreads for their businesses, but only in certain applications.

“It’s more of a personal thing,” Weakley said. “Like anything else, you need to make sure you buy them at a reputable retread and repair shop. A lot of guys will use them on trailers but not on their tractors.”

 Weakley said retreads are restricted for certain applications in certain states. He said hazmat haulers should check for restrictions before considering retreads, particularly for drive tires.

In an informal sampling of over-the-road truckers and business owners, Land Line found a wide range of opinions from OOIDA members on retreads.

“Retread tires, mainly due to the technology and years of research, have been able to produce a product that is definitely a viable alternative to new tires,” said OOIDA

Life Member Paul Sansoucy, a small-fleet owner from Carroll, OH. “Additionally, to gain maximum utilization from your tire program, you must be very diligent in managing that program.”

Member Mike Hicks of Mike Hicks Trucking in Paris, Ontario, does not use retreads but has a reason.

“I do not use retread tires as we haul heavy all the time and cannot trust recaps. I would rather pay the extra money and not wreck anything when the recaps blow,” Hicks said.

Brodsky said it takes 117 pounds of rubber and compound – he calls it “stuff” – to (produce) a brand-new factory tire.

“It only takes 27 pounds to retread it,” he said. “We may look round and black, but we are green. We are one of the most environmentally friendly industries in history.”

Brodsky addresses the issue of road alligators – slabs of rubber left on the road after a tire malfunction – by saying most are from improperly inflated or improperly maintained virgin tires.

“A retreaded tire is stronger than a virgin tire,” he said.

He said statistics show that a good retreaded tire can last longer than a virgin tire if properly maintained.

“The basic tire has been designed for more than one life,” he said. “These are all designed for multiple lives without exception.”

When diesel spiked to $4.50 and $5 per gallon around the country, retreaders saw a spike in business, he said. Perhaps truckers had originally budgeted to buy new tires in a given year, but decided to invest in retreads instead, Brodsky suggested.

Including the U.S., Canada and Mexico, the retread industry puts

18 million tires back on the road each year, he said.

Other aspects of the tire market continue to evolve as the economy expands and contracts.

OOIDA member Cy MacDonald of Winnipeg, Manitoba, sought out low-profile, energy-efficient tires when times got tough.

 “When it’s time to replace these Michelin E’s, I’ll be looking at the retread market again,” MacDonald said. “If I can find one that will give me a comparable rolling resistance, I’ll buy it.” LL