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Retreads are Good For Truckers…and Good for the Environment!

Over the road (OTR) trucking involves the use of hauling 53’ trailers behind a truck. The American Transportation Research Institute estimates that of the total cost per mile of driving a rig that drives between 80,000 and 125,000 miles per year, the average cost (including drivers wages and benefits) is $1.593 per mile, or which tire cost are $ 0.043 a mile, and fuel costs are $.403 per mile.

Many of the largest fleets in the United States recognized the value of retreads back in 1970s. Many large fleets have over a million tires on the road at any point in time, and of their replacement tires, the ratio of new to retreaded tires is typically 4.5:1. The primary benefit of retreaded tires is the reduced tire cost, less than 1.5 cents per mile, versus the industry average of around 4.5 cents per mile. And a retread will work on almost any casing, provided it meets the strict inspection requirements for the casing.  With the exception of one type of tire:  ultra-low cost import tires.

An Effective Business Strategy

In North America, the trucking industry saves more than three billion dollars annually by using retreaded tires. Safety is a paramount factor for large fleets, and the use of retread tires reflects senior executives’ trust in the reliability of retreads for their drivers and other drivers on the highway. Retreads are a critical component of what is commonly known as “Good tire management practices”.  OTR fleet managers recognize that the real value provided by retreads is not the initial price savings, but in the overall fuel savings attributed to the improved Rolling Resistance of retreads over lower quality tires.

The maximum number of retreads per tire occur for high quality (Tier 1) casings, which are often retreaded 3 or 4 times. Some retreaded tires have been found to have lasted over a million miles! This is because the quality of the casing matters when it comes to a retread.   Retread providers, which are located in driving distance from just about anywhere in the United States, will often work with fleets to pick up their used tires, and provide service on installation of retreads wherever the truck may be.

IbisWorld’s Procurement Report on Commercial Tires supports retreading as a major method to reduce total cost of ownership, noting that:

The retreading process consists of repairing all existing damage, resurfacing the tire and applying a new layer of tread to the casing. This process results in a tire with almost identical performance as the brand new tire, essentially giving the tire a second
life. Retreading a tire costs significantly less than purchasing a new tire, with retreaded tires costing an average $100 less than a comparable new tire. Moreover, fleet owners can retread their tires multiple times, allowing buyers to stretch out the tire’s life far beyond the original limit. Another option available
to semi-truck operators is to switch the tire’s position. After reaching about 500,000 miles in the drive position (attached to the truck’s rear axle), the operator can choose to install their tire on their trailer, which imparts much less wear than the drive position. By doing
so, the truck operator can get another 150,000 miles of use out of the tire before needing to replace it. Best of all, buyers can still retread their tire after installing it on their trailer, leading to an even longer useful life. …Fortunately for buyers, retreading suppliers have hundreds of locations around the country, making it easy to purchase these services as needed.[1]

Using retreads can save money, regardless of the metric fleets are using to measure their business performance. Examples of metrics include the following:

  • Cost per driver hour
  • Cost per engine hour
  • Cost per vehicle
  • Cost per mile
  • Cost per load

Using any of these metrics, retreads provide significant savings. And yet, decision-makers will often only consider the cost of a new, low cost imported tire at $225 versus a retread, (around $125- $150), and decide to purchase a new tire. What they are missing in this decision is that most Tier 3 and Tier 4 (low cost import) tires cannot be retreaded, and often have lower gas mileage, may fail prematurely, and may not last as long (10-40% lower life). For this reason, it is imperative that drivers and fleet managers look at the Total Cost of Ownership of using a retread tire.

Good tire management practices in the fleet and trucking industry are highlighted by the following actions:

  • Fleets will use all new tires in the steer position (3) that will normally last a year.
  • The new tires are retreaded, and then moved to the “drive” position (1), which is the second position on the truck. (Although it is “legal” to have a retread in a “steer” position, this practice is not normally followed).
  • After two years, the tire is re-treaded and moved to the “trailer” position (9). The tire may then also be retreaded a third or fourth time in the “trailer” position, as they do not typically wear as fast. (Trailers often sit at warehouses or distribution centers for long periods of time without being moved.)
  • The number one issue associated with avoiding blowouts is to keep tires at proper inflation levels.

Retreads cost less than new tires over time

There is a good reason why the largest fleets in the world use retread tires: they make solid economic sense. But they also are much better for the environment, and reduce the volume of tires going to landfill by a factor of 3 or 4.  So re-think retreads!

[1] Buchanan, Ian, IbisWorld Procurement Report, “Commercial Truck Tires”, December 2016, pp. 12-13.