If you've purchased a larger earthmover, or have had to replace the rubber on existing units, you've likely encountered some difficulty in getting the tires you need. There's still a tire shortage, and manufacturers expect the gap between supply and demand for large earthmoving tires to continue through 2009. While the crunch has eased for some of the smaller loader and grader sizes, larger earthmoving tires will continue to be hard to find.
One way you can maintain productivity through the shortage is to consider using retreads. They have been a staple in the commercial trucking arena for years, and have been slowly making their way into the construction industry via some off-road trucks. But the recent big push for retreads has been in earthmoving tires.
"Retreading these products has ebbed and flowed over the years," says Mike Poirier, North American OTR sales manager, continuum brand retread materials, Bandag. "Historically, we will go through major swings of construction growth, which have a tendency to create shortages in new tires. When new tires are in short supply, retreading goes up. That's when contractors really seek the value of retreading. To keep equipment up and running, it may be their only option. As contractors are realizing that, the casing becomes an extremely valuable asset."
"We're about five to 10 years behind the commercial trucking industry," adds Mike Tolman, retread project manager, Michelin. "But retreading in the construction industry is growing, and its viability is becoming more understood and desired from end users who want to recoup their initial tire investment."
Recouping that investment is possible, since the casing from the original tire can be reused in the retreading process as long as it isn't damaged. "A large portion of any tire's cost is in the casing itself," says Tolman. "If you can use a tire, salvage the casing and reuse it, you save dollars by using the tire again. You've renewed the life of that tire by putting a new tread on an old casing."
So how much can you save? Depending on size, a tire can be retread for as little as half the cost of purchasing a new one. Savings continue to add up when you consider a casing can often be retread more than once. "Every time that casing is retread, the cost savings falls to the bottom line," says Harvey Brodsky, managing director, Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau. "From an economical viewpoint, it makes all the sense in the world."
Maintain inflation pressure
A management program put in place to take advantage of retreads provides cost savings with the original tire, as well. That's because a key ingredient of a retreading program is implementing a tire maintenance program to protect the casing, which extends the life and improves the performance of the original tire.
The foundation of any successful tire maintenance program is maintaining proper inflation pressure. Overloaded and under/overinflated tires are not only more susceptible to damage, they wear unevenly, increasing tire costs due to early removal.
"Managing inflation pressure is the No. 1 most important factor," says Tolman. "It's also one of the more difficult [to control] for this industry. In [off-road] applications, our customers are running different cycles where equipment is loaded and unloaded. We work with them to do weight and cycle studies, and help them determine the actual loads the tire is carrying to give them the exact pressure recommendations they should be running to get the optimum life out of that tire."
Even though it's difficult, it's important to find the right pressure to maintain the integrity of the casing. "If you don't maintain the air pressure, you can damage the casing," says Jack Dutcher, national manager, training, Bridgestone/Firestone. "A tire flexes hundreds of millions of times during its life. The more you flex it, the more fatigue you put into the tire. If you don't maintain the right air pressure, you will overflex it. It's like a coat hanger - if you bend it back and forth enough, it will break. The same thing can happen to a tire. The more you bend it, the quicker it will break."