Over the years retreading has failed to get the respect it deserves. That is something industry participants need to continue to address and, hopefully, get detractors to see the benefits of retreaded tires—both economic and environmental.
For the longest time, it was the occasional television or newspaper story about the dangers retreaded tires posed, with the requisite footage of "road gators," or the large strips of tread that were assumed to be from retreaded truck tires.
More recently, the problem retreaders have faced is tied to economics. Some of the new imported truck/bus tires from China and other low-cost producing nations can be had for not much more than a retreaded unit may run.
So the logic follows, if the price isn't much different, it must be better to buy new, right? That's not necessarily the case.
Joseph Saoud, president of Bridgestone Americas U.S. and Canadian truck, bus and retread business, in his keynote speech at the North American Tire & Retread Expo, urged all participants in the commercial tire industry—from tire makers to retreaders to dealers—to work together to counter the "new is better" perception. He said the domestic retreading industry's unprecedented losses in business the past few years can be traced to market share taken by low-cost imports.
Tire makers that promote a "cradle to grave" approach for truck tires, tout that on a cost-per-mile basis, looking at the full life of a truck tire casing through at least two retreads offers trucking fleets a more economical proposition than buying cheap imports that may be of questionable quality. Saud said this approach also ties the sellers more solidly to its customers.
The environmental impact can't be overlooked as well. Industry estimates that a retreaded tire requires just seven gallons of oil to produce versus 22 gallons for a new truck tire, not to mention keeping millions of tires out of the waste stream each year.
Winning this battle will be key to the long-term success of the North American retreading industry and the estimated 50,000 jobs it supports.