(NUI) - What do you think when you hear the word "retreads"? If you immediately think of the chunks of rubber you often see along the road, it's time to think again.
Despite a lingering misconception about the safety of retreaded tires, truckers are finding them just as safe and far more economical than new replacement tires.
Truck fleeta managers who have the facts know they can cut tire costs in half and not sacrifice safety by using retreads.
According to the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB), an industry-supported association, retreads are the replacement tire of choice for most truckers today. The California-based organization says that trucking fleets in North America are purchasing almost 1.5 retreads for every new replacement tire.
Because retreading has become increasingly popular, it is anticipated that by early in the next century there will be two retreads for every new truck tire purchased, TRIB says.
The trend toward greater use of retreaded tires is due largely to the industry's efforts to educate the public on the retreads' safety. Its biggest task has been to overcome motorists' assumptions that all those chunks of scrap rubber on the highways result from a failed retread.
Not so, says TRIB Managing Director Harvey Brodsky, who cites government and private studies to back up the organization's position. Studies by the U.S. Department of Transportation have found that new tires blow out just as often as retreads if they are poorly maintained or improperly used.
The real cause of scrap rubber on the road is usually because a truck carrying a heavy load had a tire that was damaged en route or started the trip with an insufficient amount of air.
A radial truck tire traveling under a heavy load is already running at about 150 degree Fahrenheit, Brodsky notes. For every two pounds of underinflation, the temperature increases by as much as five degrees. If it's seriously underinflated, it can become hotter and hotter until the tire weakens and tears apart, spreading wire-imbedded rubber all over the highway.
"The rubber along the road could just as well have come from a new tire or a tire that has never been retreaded," Brodsky says. "Rubber on the road is primarily caused by tire abuse -- overloading, underinflation, heat buildup and the mismatching of dual tires on the same axle."
How safe are retreads? The federal government thinks they're very safe. President Clinton recently signed an Executive Order mandating the continued use of retreaded tires on all government vehicles.
Nearly every commercial airline in the world routinely uses retreads on even their largest passenger jets. Thousands of school buses, municipal buses, taxis, race cars, emergency vehicles such as fire engines and ambulances, and truckers everywhere use retreaded tires.
Besides being cost effective, retreads are environmentally friendly; they play a major role in conserving our fossil fuels. Tires are basically petrochemical products -- it takes 22 gallons of oil to manufacture just one new truck tire. Most of the oil is found in the casing, which is reused in the retreading process. As a result, it takes only seven gallons of oil to produce a retread.
For more information about retreads, including a booklet about rubber on the road along with a free video and a buyer's guide, call the Tire Retread Information Bureau toll-free at 1-888-473-8732 or visit www.retread.org.