After fuel and labor costs, tires remain a fleet's biggest expense. To help fleets get the longest life not only out of their new tires, but out of their retreads as well, tire manufacturers are now bringing the same innovative rubber compounds and tread designs found in new tires to the retread market. More sophisticated retread processes are also going far to help reduce total tire costs.
Michelin says it is applying new technology in both product and process arenas to improve durability and safety in retreads. For example, the Michelin XDA HT is a co-extruded compound that allows for heat reduction to improve casing longevity. Process enhancements like laser shearography are helping to detect casing crown separation and reduce failures.
Michelin says that to get the most out of their retreads, fleets should familiarize themselves and develop a good relationship with their retread provider or service dealer. They recommend visiting the retread plant to see how well the retreader processes casings from the initial inspection through the final inspection.
One of the tire manufacturer's most recent challenges has been to develop retreads for its X One new-generation wide single tire. Treads are now available and the company reports that in the coming year it will bring additional tread choices to this rapidly growing market.
Other good news, Goodyear reports, is that retreading processes have become much more sophisticated in today's plants. Computer technology has allowed for automation of nearly every stage in the process. Barcoding systems are also making it easier to track tire performance. Early last month Goodyear announced an upgrade of its barcode tracking system — GTRACS NG.
Tires brought to a Goodyear authorized retreader are marked with a barcode, which is scanned at every stage in the retread process so fleets can track service and performance of their retreads. The upgraded tire tracking system links computer servers at each retread plant so information stored in the data warehouse can be accessed in real-time.
Goodyear says the current trend in retreads is application-specific tread designs and compounds. For example, while over-the-road fleets are concerned with things like miles to removal and rolling resistance, on/off road customers may be more focused on chip-resistance and durability properties. To provide its customers with a full-lifecycle product, Goodyear is "cloning" various application-specific compounds for its NEXTRED retread products that are nearly identical to its new-tire compounds.
The trend to more application-specific retread products, according to Bandag, allows fleet managers to choose the features and benefits most important to their operations. It notes that the industry has new tread designs and compounds that can deliver better fuel mileage or longer wear or better traction or better performance in a high-torque application. Fleet managers must decide which attributes are most important to them. Tires suppliers can offer guidance in this area.
Real savings come from tire management programs that provide fleets with information to help confirm they are getting a maximum return on their investment. Citing improper tire inflation as the number one cause of tire and retread failure, Bandag stresses the importance of simple preventive maintenance in this area. In general, implementing tire maintenance and data collection programs will help fleets track failures and their causes so problems can be remedied.
Oliver, the retread arm of Cooper Tires, notes that in addition to duplicating designs of new tires for retreads, there is growing emphasis on creating new retread-specific designs and products. The goal is to enable fleets of varying applications to achieve the best durability and longevity with their tires.
The company also says it continues working on new compounds and design enhancements to help fleets lower fuel costs. For the fleet's part, Oliver says adhering to a strict PM program is the best way to reduce downtime costs.
As far as processes are concerned, Oliver sees increased growth in its pre-cure retreading processes, although the mold-cure process continues to be a very large part of its business.
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GOODYEAR TIRE & RUBBER 371
MARANGONI TREAD N.A. 372
MICHELIN N.A. 373
OLIVER TREADS 374