At a time in history when countries subscribed to a myriad of government ideologies, the Beatles' John Lennon made a plea for world leaders to put aside their differences and “give peace a chance.” In many ways, the same can be said for the transportation industry when it comes to retreaded tires. Too many people still believe the myth that retreads are unreliable and ultimately find their final resting spot in pieces on the side of the road.
To say that retreading technology has changed is an understatement. Much of the process is now controlled by computers, so consistent product quality and uniformity is much easier to achieve. Perhaps the area that has seen the most advancement is inspection. In the past, the only line of defense was a trained technician who would look for visual clues that may indicate a casing that has been damaged. Modern inspection technology includes electronic nail hole detection, shearography, and high-pressure testing to prevent suspect casings from being retreaded and returned to the customer.
But information about new technology and an analogy to one of the icons of popular culture are probably still not enough to convince many fleets to take another look at retreading. Consequently, I'll devote the rest of my column to what a fleet should look for in a retreader.
The first step is to schedule a tour of the plant. Reputable retreaders will rarely hesitate to give customers a look at operations during production because they are proud of their people and equipment. Since experience can be an important factor when looking for a retread partner, if you have the opportunity to talk to some of the people on the floor, ask them how long they've been working there.
You'll no doubt be wooed with impressive equipment such as computerized buffers, cushion gum extruders and laser-guided builders. But while this is going on, look for clues to the level of housekeeping at the plant. There is definitely a difference between “new” dirt and “old” dirt, so pay attention to the condition of the equipment, as well as storage and staging areas.
Another indication of a quality retreader is the system used to track casings throughout the process. Many plants have gone paperless, with an accompanying data recording system that can instantly identify the exact location of a tire and provide reports such as the number of repairs and the age of the casing. This information becomes even more valuable when it's used to determine cost per mile and analyze scrap tires.
Finally, make sure that the retreader has adequate product liability insurance. Keep in mind that the plaintiff will file suit against everyone even remotely connected to an accident, so a retreader that is unwilling to reveal coverage limits might be trying to hide something. Again, a reputable retreader should be an open book when it comes to things like insurance certificates and adjustment rates.
Despite what you've heard or may think about retreaded tires, the economic advantages and performance capabilities far outweigh any risk. In fact, the adjustment rates between new and retreaded tires are fairly close. And in some instances, retreads have been found to be more reliable.
As fuel prices continue to climb, fleets that aren't using retreaded tires in some capacity are missing out on the opportunity to lower operating expenses without sacrificing performance. And that deserves a chance.