WASHINGTON (May 4)—Demand for tread rubber used to make retreaded tires fell in 2000 because of strong demand for new commercial replacement truck tires, according to the latest statistics from the Rubber Manufacturers Association's Tread Rubber Market Analysis Committee. Tread rubber shipments declined 7.9 percent between 1999 and 2000, to 493 million pounds from 536 million. The general softening of the U.S. economy—including a drop in both the commercial truck sector and the number of commercial truck ton-miles driven—will cause tread rubber shipments to sag another 3.7 percent in 2001, the RMA committee said in its annual forecast. But projected 3-percent growth in the Gross Domestic Product in 2002, plus the resumption of a normal growth pattern for truck tires, should result in an annual growth rate of 1.9 percent for tread rubber, it said. U.S. retreaders sold more than 20 million tires in 2000, with total sales of more than $1.5 billion, according to the RMA.