Getting a grip on retreads

Features - Fleet Maintenance | Tires

Mechanics and fleet managers with a sharp eye on maintenance can extend the life of retreaded tires on collection trucks.

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September 10, 2020

Image coutesy of Cooper Tire

Tires are an inevitable yet critical expense item for fleet managers at solid waste and recycling hauling companies. Flat tires can cause downtime, underinflated tires lead to higher fuel consumption and a blown tire could cause a safety-related incident.

Although maintaining a fleet’s tires may be unavoidable, some salvation lies on the expense side in the form of retreading. Truck tires with sturdy casings can be retreaded several times and provide a path to lower overall tire costs for operators.

Global tire manufacturers provide support for companies’ retreading efforts, including information and suggestions on which tires are ideal retreading candidates and how to best undertake the retreading process.

A hard road to travel

Tire manufacturers know that solid waste vehicles tackle tough assignments, and work to leverage their expertise to help operators get the best performance from their fleets.

“The waste industry by nature is very tough on tires, and retreading is a vital component in fleets’ maintenance programs and budgets,” says Tom Clauer, senior manager of commercial and OTR (off the road) product planning at Santa Ana, California-based Yokohama Tire Corp.

States Phil Mosier, manager of commercial tire development for Findlay, Ohio-based Cooper Tires, “It is very important to Cooper Tire to manufacture a tire that not only achieves good mileage, but also is durable enough to withstand the everyday demands a tire experiences in waste hauling.”

Nashville, Tennessee-based Bridgestone Americas has a division called Bandag dedicated to retreading, says Keith Iwinski, Bandag’s director of marketing. Says Iwinski, “The modern retread process has evolved significantly over the years.”

Waste vehicles are subject to damage from a variety of objects—including sharp pieces of metal—that can be present on the road, at waste transfer stations or at the landfill. Some trucks also service industrial facilities where those same types of hazards add to the risk.

But beyond severe damage incidents, waste trucks on an urban or suburban route tend to operate in stop-and-go environments that slowly and steadily wear down treads.

The relatively short life of tread depth on collection truck tires can, in part, be abetted by making the best tread choice during initial purchase. There are two tread designs most commonly used by waste collection trucks, according to Nick Davis, a senior product marketing manager for Akron, Ohio-based Goodyear, who was interviewed for a 2019 Waste Today article.

According to Davis, “Rib tread designs, which consist of a series of parallel zig-zagged grooves, generally have shallower treads, less traction and better wear rate. Lug designs, which consist of parallel and perpendicular lines forming blocky shapes, have better traction but tend to wear quicker and have inferior fuel efficiency compared with rib designs.”

Whichever tread pattern is chosen, being able to apply retreaded versions can help haulers save money. For that reason, says Clauer, manufacturers have designed commercial truck casings for several retreading processes.

“Reputable tire manufacturers place a heavy emphasis on developing products that have the durability and toughness to not only handle the daily abuses to the tread and casing, but also to ensure to the best of their ability, multiple retreads,” he comments.

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Making the case for sturdy casings

According to manufacturers, the stronger and sturdier the casing, the better a candidate it is to accept multiple retread applications.

“The quality of a tire begins with a strong tire casing—it’s the backbone of the tire,” says Mosier. “The stronger the tire casing is, the more retreads it will be able to provide, which results in a lower cost of ownership. It’s why we spend so much time in the design and construction of our casings.”

He continues, “The Cooper Tire Severe Series mixed service all-position (MSA) tire was designed specifically with waste haulers in mind—the tread design and the tires’ compounding allow it to better withstand scrubbing, while protecting against cutting and chipping.”

Clauer lists a strong casing as one of several factors that should be top of mind when waste fleet managers consider their tire purchasing and maintenance regimen.

“The best resources a waste fleet can have is the tire manufacturer and their servicing dealer,” he comments. “To have these two resources working in tandem will help provide products that will give the best original tread life, the most durable casing and the proper retread to complement the fleet’s operation area.”

A comprehensive retread plan devised in conjunction with manufacturers and dealers will ideally lead to ongoing cost savings.

Image courtesy of Yokohama Tires

Manufacturers have their own staff members dedicated to maximizing how fleets retread their tires, says Mosier. “Cooper’s R&D team and sales teams are constantly working with fleets across North America to analyze the performance of our tires, improve tire designs based on our findings and develop new tires that best meet the requirements of their respective application,” he states.

Clauer says retreading the tires of a hauling fleet can yield significant, ongoing savings. “Assuming the fleet is using products from premium manufacturers, which offer products specific to the waste industry and who have a good reputation for retreadability in this segment, retreading can represent a vital savings to the fleet if selected and managed properly,” he comments.

Clauer continues, “In many cases, these products can be retreaded multiple times (three or more cycles is not uncommon) if properly maintained. The savings over an original product can be substantial—in many cases, 50 to 70 percent, with no federal excise tax. These savings have a significant impact on the bottom line.”

Says Bridgestone’s Iwinski, “After the first retread, fleet managers can begin to see spend reductions and cost savings, which continues after the second or third retread. In fact, fleets have lowered tire costs to less than 1.5 cents per mile, well below the industry average, by incorporating retreads.”

Although solid casings with the right retreaded surfaces can extend tire life, the need to be vigilant in monitoring tires and maintaining a fleet remains a constant.

Time for a change

Each time a newly retreaded tire leaves the garage for the first time, the clock starts ticking on the process of wear and tear that will eventually see it back in the shop for yet more attention.

Although waste truck drivers and maintenance staff are on the front line tasked with monitoring tread depth and integrity, manufacturers contacted by Waste Today say they are willing and able to offer support.

“[Manufacturers] can help by recommending the proper products, tread designs, tire capacities and air pressures, as well as help waste companies better manage their casings, train their maintenance department on the importance of pulling tires at the proper time and checking for signs of damage, wear and inflation,” says Clauer. “They can also assist in instructing drivers how to be aware of the daily operational hazards that can damage or destroy the tire.”

The due diligence needed in managing a tire program can be substantial, in part, because knowing when to retread a tire is only the first step. Other considerations include determining which tire position might be the best spot to rotate in a newly retreaded tire. (See the sidebar “Rotation considerations” on page 51.)

While retreading tires is a logical decision for many waste companies, there are circumstances under which tires may not qualify.

Regarding tread depth, says Mosier, “Tread worn too low may not leave enough rubber to apply the cap after the retread buffing process.”

Says Iwinski, “Typically, waste fleets use 5/32 of an inch of remaining tread depth as the measurement for when it is time to retread truck tires. In some cases, waste fleets will look for a tread depth of 8/32 of an inch to retread their tires in order to help save the casings for a longer life cycle.”

There seems little question that using retreaded tires can be the right road to travel for waste haulers. As with so many things in life, to do it with the best possible outcome, the devil is in the details.

The author is a senior editor with the Recycling Today Media Group and can be contacted at btaylor@gie.net.