Tires consistently rank as the greatest expense for a fleet after labor and fuel costs, so it is important for fleets to get the most out of these assets.
One way to extend tire life is to use retreads and many fleets work with retreaders to achieve the longest tire life. What does a fleet need to know to wisely choose a retread dealer? The following steps will help save time and money when searching for a reliable retreader.
Harvey Brodsky, managing director for the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB), advises that there are several strategies for selecting a retreader. First, he says, ask your other fleet managers about their successes and failures with the retreaders they currently use. Ask the potential retreader for references of current customers, then call them to find out if they are happy with the retreader’s quality, service and prices.
Patrick Demianenko, Goodyear’s national sales manager for retread systems, says, “Start by selecting retread companies backed by solid reputations for their products and services.” He also suggests that a fleet interview sales people. “Are they knowledgeable? Do they give straightforward answers to questions regarding turnaround time, retread tire tracking and pricing?”
Lyle Haylett, manager of industry and government relations, Bridgestone Bandag Tire Solutions (BBTS), says to look at nationally recognized brands, “because it helps assure that the retreader you pick is going to have a fairly consistent way of doing things. They’re going to have some oversight to be sure they’re producing a quality retread.”
Bill Sweatman, president and CEO of Marangoni North America Inc., says that to select a retread dealer, a fleet should learn all it can about the retreader’s experience, the materials and the system he uses for his retreads. “Your retreader should be well established with a good track record of success,” he says. “Getting to know your retreader and his capabilities for manufacturing as well as sales and service are also important.”
Brad Beall, retread network development manager, Michelin North America, agrees that fleet managers should follow a careful process to ensure working with the highest quality retreading partner. He advises a fleet manager to visit the potential retread partner’s facility. “There’s no substitute for the site visit,” Beall says. “Inspect the equipment being used and see for yourself how the dealer maintains it. Watch for cleanliness in the shop; often times a cluttered shop indicates potential for retread process contamination.”
“You will learn a lot from the visit by seeing the technology, the facility and the people running the plant,” Sweatman agrees. Be a careful observer during a shop visit. Demianenko says to ask yourself these questions: “Are the employees dressed in uniforms and look neat? Are they enthused about what they’re doing and talk about quality? Does the plant manager show you the plant and discuss the facility, new technology and the process? Does he have the right attitude and is he eager to show you what they’re doing? Does the whole facility look good, including the service department and warehouse?”
Brodsky also believes a shop tour is important. “Top-quality retreaders are happy to show you through their plants and they are also happy to answer your questions.” He says you can gain insight into the retreader’s management philosophy as well. “Look at the employees’ bathroom and lunch area. You can tell a whole lot about the quality retread you will receive by the way the employees are treated.”
Haylett adds that people may not be aware of all the care and quality inspections that go into the retread process. After a tour, visitors should come away impressed: “If they’re not, maybe they should look at another dealer.”
You should have some assurance that the retreader can get to your tire facility frequently enough and return tires at a time that suits your needs. “A national fleet should look for a national brand that could provide service from multiple locations,” says Haylett. A small fleet should pick someone reasonably close that can pick up worn tires and return them on an acceptable time frame.
“Acceptable turnaround is no more than seven days,” says Demianenko, who also stresses the importance of a retreader being part of a larger network providing a range of services. “Does the company offer a mounted wheel program that could save time and increase productivity when replacing tires? What about 24-hour service?” he asks. “Does the facility offer emergency road service? Major tire manufacturers offer roadside service as part of their retread programs.” By aligning with a major tire maker’s retread program, customers receive consistent pricing of retreads at dealer locations and access to retread plants across the country.
Beall says a retreader’s ability to use information technology should also be considered. “Networks’ utilization of tracking systems such as Michelin Retread Technologies’ BIB Tread can ensure timeliness and consistency in billing, making it easier to do business with these dealers,” he adds. Demianenko says a fleet should ask: “Does the retreader keep information about a customer’s tires and does the customer have access to it?” He notes that Goodyear dealers offer an automated tracking system (GTRACS) for tires using bar codes.
Sweatman suggests choosing a retread supplier based on services that can help a fleet to operate a predictive maintenance program. Tracking mileage, doing yard checks, providing road service, rim and wheel refinishing are some of the services that fleets need. “The independent tire dealer has the best ability to help create a tire program best suited for a fleet,” Sweatman says. “Choosing the best new tire for the application followed by the best retread program to extend the life of that casing are important considerations.”
Brodsky reminds fleets to ask to see a retreader’s adjustment records. “If a retreader doesn’t want to show you the adjustment records, he is telling you something!” Asking is not just to learn the rate, but to see if the dealer keeps good records, BBTS’ Haylett explains. “That tells you that they’re paying attention to their customers’ tire management programs and that they understand what affects the adjustment rate.”
Sweatman adds, “A fleet should know a retreader’s average plant adjustment ratio the percentage of retreads that failed due to workmanship and/or material failure and what their warrantee policy is for replacement.”
Tire treads and casings
Ultimately, a good retread is one that will work best for your fleet. “Your retreader should help you select the appropriate application-specific tread design for your particular use,” says Brodsky. “This involves a thorough question and answer session between you and your retreader so that he fully understands your needs.”
According to Haylett, a retreader should understand what issues your fleet faces so it can develop a retread strategy that fits your overall tire management program. This process includes not only the selection of new tires for their retreadability, but also choosing the proper retread rubber for the application and determining the pull point you should be using items specific to each fleet. Tread patterns for longhaul, highway trucks will be different than those required for spread axle, sanitation and other demanding activities. Be sure the tread pattern, compounding and construction of the retread fit the application, Beall urges.
A fleet should know at all times how many retreadable casings they have, Sweatman advises. Every fleet should receive a delivery receipt that identifies the fleet’s own casings that have been either picked up or returned.
An online system, such as Goodyear’s Fleetwise, provides reports to keep customers informed about purchases, inventory tracking and road service requests, notes Demianenko.
“Ask to see the tools and applications used at the retread plant to track the asset,” Michelin’s Beall suggests. Using reports generated by BIB Tread or other applications can help fleets manage tires more efficiently.
While touring the retread facility, inspect the finished product. Do the retreads look brand new? Does the retread firm have quality casings to sell? What warranties are available for casings and retreads? “The warranty should cover the life of the casing and retread, or the retread alone, if you are supplying casings,” Demianenko says.
Ensure that the warranty covers finished products for all treads and casings, Beall adds. He says that for quality retreaders, any casing that passes the rigorous inspection process should be warranted regardless of the original new tire brand.
Marangoni’s Sweatman says that a fleet should establish a casing policy regarding the casing condition, repairs, and number of times a casing is retreaded that is most appropriate for either the drive or trailer application, in order to get the most total miles and retreads out of their asset. If a casing is rejected for retreading and a casing needs to be purchased, the policy will determine what grade of casing is acceptable. In choosing a good retread, Sweatman says a fleet should examine which product will give the most total value, the most reliable miles, and the best combination of required performance characteristics such as traction, balance or the least rolling resistance to optimize fuel economy.
“There used to be over 10,000 retreaders in the U.S.,” Sweatman notes. “Today there are fewer than 900. Today’s retreaders are the best there have ever been,” he asserts. “Customer expectations are high, and a retreader that doesn’t make a quality retread will not be around long. The modern-day retreader has advanced with technology to offer the fleet customer a quality product,” he explains.
“Most independent retreaders operate under their family name,” Sweatman continues. “They pride themselves on their longevity in their market and the industry. Their name is their reputation, so each strives to be the best retreader possible and they stand behind their product.”
Doing your homework when selecting a quality retreader will help lower your overall cost of tire ownership down the road.