Choosing the right retread for a specific truck application has gotten a lot simpler for fleets. For one thing, with Bridgestone's acquisition of Bandag last year, three of the industry's major tire suppliers can now offer fleets a one-stop shop for both new tires and retreads. Secondly, manufacturers are closing the gap between new and retread models by offering retreads in designs that match new truck tire tread patterns.

Michelin's Dave Lippert, North American retread market segment manager, says: “The larger truck carriers still look at cost-per-mile when selecting retreads. But more important is the value proposition of a one-stop shop. They want to be able to go to a dealer that provides good quality service and has all the products they need available to them.

“That's what we're geared toward,” he adds. “The Michelin name has always stood for quality and we insist our franchisees do the same on the retread side. In November Michelin Retread Technologies (MRT) celebrated its tenth anniversary. Since we started business in 1997 we've grown to include 45 franchises with 77 retread locations across North America. We have 44 retread patterns available for fuel-efficient, highway and on/off-road tires.”

To add more value to fleet customers, Lippert says one of the things Michelin has recently done is extend its new tire product line by offering retreads in a lot of the same tread designs. In the past year, for example, the company launched the XDN2 retread, which is directly in line with Michelin's XDN2 new tire, a deep-tread drive OTR snow/traction tire.

“Our retreads incorporate MDT (Michelin Durable Technologies) geared to extend casing life and give fleets a lower cost per mile,” Lippert reports. “One of the technologies we introduced over a year ago is a self-regeneration tread feature called Hypersipe. The second is full-depth Matrix sipes, or waffle sipes, which increase traction and stabilize the block for longer mileage. The new XDN-2 tread employs Matrix sipes.”

To complement its tread manufacturing capacity, last October Michelin completed acquisition of Oliver Rubber Co., which now operates as a subsidiary of Michelin N.A. The acquisition of Oliver, a producer of tread rubber and retreading equipment, extends the commercial reach of Michelin's retreading services throughout North America. In 2005 Michelin had done a major expansion of its tread manufacturing facility in Covington, GA, and last summer it also opened an MRT tread pressing plant in Queretaro, Mexico.

Goodyear Tire and Rubber Company's Tim Miller, communications manager for Goodyear commercial tire systems, says the focus of retreads is no longer on selling retread rubber to retreaders, but rather on selling the value proposition of retreading to fleets. This, he says, “will also impact new tire selection, because proven retreadability will be a major purchase decision criteria.”

At Goodyear, “we've been able to integrate new tire technology into the retread arena,” he notes. “Our new tire engineers work in the same office as the retread engineers. New and retread designs and compounds are developed together, [although] the technology to produce the Goodyear Unicircle one-piece continuous hoop retread, and the process for applying it to used tire casings, does not relate to those technologies needed for new tires.”

The linkage of retreads to new tires, Miller states, is more critical than ever to meet the total tire needs of fleets. “Fleet managers want retreads that closely match new tires in appearance and performance. With retreads produced by the same company that made the new tires, such performance can be expected.

“Fleet managers also want the value and service that should come with retreads,” he adds. “They rely on a large network of servicing outlets as their trucks travel across the country. Goodyear's network of about 160 authorized retreaders and more than 500 Truckwise dealer locations is a competitive advantage.

“We view retreading as an integral part of an overall cradle-to-grave tire service program, which starts with new tires, replacement tires, multiple retreads and tire management tools that deliver value to the fleet,” he adds.

According to Miller, in most instances Goodyear's retread products quickly follow the introduction of new tire designs, sometimes even preceding them. Among the tire maker's newest retreads is the Fuel Max G305 drive retread, as well as the G316 trailer retread, both of which complement the company's fuel-efficient Fuel Max new tires.

“We've also supplied supporting information technology systems. GTRACS NG, which is currently being rolled out, provides retreaders a state-of-the-art plant management system, and provides fleets of all sizes real-time Internet access to their retread statistics across the Goodyear Authorized Retread network. End user focus is the name of the game,” Miller states.

At Bandag, customers' needs are emphasized. Chris Hoffman, product manager-Global Tire Products, says, “The first thing fleets look for in treads is a quality retread system that delivers a reliable finished tire. They also look for service where they work. After that, it's just like shopping for a new tire. Most over-the-road fleets are concerned with wear-out mileage and are looking for a reliable retread that delivers that lowest cost per mile.”

The biggest retread process technology advancement of late, Hoffman points out, is Shearography, which utilizes laser inspection technology. Bandag uses Shearography as one of several inspection steps in its patented Bandag Retread Process. The laser procedure allows the tire to be inspected bead-to-bead and catches any anomalies that could be missed by the naked eye.

Bandag also focuses on customer service. The retread manufacturer's servicing network currently includes 1,600 locations across North America so it can service most fleets very quickly. More than 100 individual dealers within the Bandag dealer network, Hoffman advises, have achieved ISO 9001:2000 certification for the manufacture of retread tires. The benefit to fleets is the opportunity to use consistent, quality retreads across North America.

New retread products from Bandag include the BTL-SA (Bandag Trailer Linehaul - Spread Axle) with its unique ECL skirting that's designed to withstand tough spread axle applications and protect the casing. Hoffman notes the new product was launched in keeping with an industry trend for increased use of spread axle trailers by fleets.

“There have also been advances in winter tread designs like the BDR-W (Bandag Drive Regional - Winter) that delivers more than 20% better snow traction than its predecessor,” Hoffman reports. “And with the rising price of fuel, the design and special synergy compound of FuelTech drive and FuelTech trailer retreads help deliver the lowest fuel costs in the industry. For fleets most concerned about getting the lowest cost per mile, MegaTrek in the drive position and our FCR trailer retread still deliver.”

Marangoni Tread N.A. says a contoured, one-piece design is what differentiates its Marangoni Ringtread retreads from conventional pre-cure designs. The contour of the Ringtread, the company explains, is designed to match the natural curvature of a casing. And because there are no splices, the tread fits the tire without any distortion, which also eliminates any heavy or light spots and improves mileage, wear, fuel economy and overall performance. The Italian-based Marangoni Tread N.A. introduced the Marangoni Ringtread retread process to North America in 1998.

FOR MORE INFORMATION, VISIT THESE WEB SITES:

BANDAG
www.bandag.com

GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER
www.goodyear.com

MARANGONI TREAD N.A.
www.marangoni.com

MICHELIN NORTH AMERICA
www.michelintruck.com