With the Goodyear Blimp hovering in the sky over Bowling Green, Ohio, TravelCenters of America started a new chapter in its home state.
As the largest operator of truck stops and travel centers in the U.S., the company kicked off the opening of its first retread facility and its entrance into the tire manufacturing business.
“This connects us directly with our customer and provides them some services that we couldn’t in the past,” says Barry Richards, president and chief operating officer for TravelCenters of America, based out of Westlake, Ohio. “We’ve been in the tire business the entire time TA has been in existence, so this really compliments what we do, and Goodyear has been a great partner helping us with this venture.”
The grand opening of the TA Commercial Tire Network Retread Center, part of the Goodyear Authorized Retread Network, featured a luncheon followed by a ribbon cutting ceremony where Bowling Green officials hailed the company’s efforts to retain local employees and invest in the city.
“I want to express special appreciation for your decision to come to Bowling Green, Ohio, and your decision to change your corporate profile a little bit,” said Bowling Green Mayor Richard Edwards. “That’s a bold step on behalf of your whole corporate group to get into the tire making business… Getting into the manufacturing arm speaks well about your sense of boldness and optimism about the future of your company, and the future of this city and our ability to help you grow and keep with your mission.”
During the afternoon event, attendees had an opportunity to tour the 30,000-square-foot facility, observe tire retread production and see the capabilities of TA’s OnSITE mobile maintenance truck and the RoadSquad emergency breakdown and repair truck. The plant, which now has 25-30 employees, could expand to employ up to 50 people. Jody Miller, general manager of the plant, said the center has the ability to currently retread 110 tires during an 8-hour shift. He said that will expand as the center gets up and running.
With the retread centers, customer-owned casings can be retreaded with exclusively Goodyear treads, a solution that lowers fleets’ cost-per-mile by lengthening the life of the tires.
TravelCenters of America acquired the center from Ironman LLC in May 2017, after it ceased production in the fall of last year. Skip McGary, executive vice president of commercial services, said the company acquired the center looking to get into the retread business, and Goodyear was seeking a presence in the area.
Along with the purchase of the facility, TravelCenters invested $2.9 million in retread equipment, including a Shearography inspection system that uses laser technology to look at the quality and performance of the retreaded tire during a casing inspection process.
Starting this month, the center will cover more than 45 TA Commercial Tire Network stores in a 150-mile radius of the center. That radius may expand as the service gets running, McGary said.
“The customer needs to know if he buys a new tire that it will be retreaded up to three times since he wants to get the full value out of that tire,” McGary says. “So when the tread is worn off, he wants to quickly bring that tire up to service and have it back in service so that he’s getting the full value out of that casing. So, us being able to pull that tire, determine any issues with it, make sure it’s in good shape, put a quality retread on it, track it through the process and tell him when he’ll have it back to be sure he keeps his supply truck in operation quickly is critical to their success. It can’t sit. It has to be working properly.”
When asked about opening other retread centers across the country, TravelCenters President Richards said the center is “our first step. We expect there will be demand for more of these. We’re just watching for those opportunities and gauging demand.” McGary added that if Goodyear sees a need for a retread plant in a certain area, the company, as an authorized retread dealer, will look into the possibility to see if it makes sense and is in line with their business needs.
“It’s certainly an opportunity for us to serve our own facilities, so that’s definitely helped,” McGary said. “We’re always loking for opportunities. There’s definitly a few today that we’re looking at but definitely not to share.”
TheTA Commercial Tire Network launched at the end of 2016 and provides customers with a combination of a wide product choice, flexible delivery/install capability and competitive pricing. Through this new TA Commercial Tire Network Retread Center, customer-owned casings can now be retreaded to lengthen the life of the tires, minimize downtime and lower fleets’ cost-per-mile.
This article will be updated.