"You have to buy new no matter what because without new tires, you won't have the casings to retread," says Walenga. "You do make retreadability one of the items on your checklist when buying a tire. You need to assess the durability of casing rather than price."
Jones says, "Fleets need to decide whether or not they are going to include retreads in their tire maintenance program. If they decide to use retreads, they should first find a reputable retreader and establish a casing policy. Fleet maintenance managers also need to establish a 'Pull Point' to remove tires from service to be rotated, retreaded, or replaced. The turnaround time on retreads will vary by dealer—it takes approximately two to three days to get retreads done so they need to allow time for that service."
"A good retreader analyzes what the fleet is doing and can recommend a tire design and tread design specific to your needs," says Brodsky. "New tires can run $175 to $350 or more. Having tires retreaded can save at least 50 percent of the cost of a new tire."
Brodsky says fleets with medium-duty vehicles often can retread the tire more than once. Smaller trucks do a lot of turning, curbing, and city driving and tires wear out quicker, but the tire does not have the time to "age out." When the second tread wears out, the casing still might be young and healthy.
Tire Industry Association (TIA), based in Bowie, MD, provides training to tire dealers and commercial fleet operators.
Chris Bell, director of training for TIA says, "A lot of fleets do not do tire service but have to remove tires for other maintenance items, therefore, they need to be trained. OSHA standard 29 CFR 1910.177 says that anyone who handles an inflated truck tire must be trained according to a bulleted list of specific items."
She adds that OSHA doesn't say you have to have TIA training to be compliant and that some companies have developed their own training program to meet the standard, but Bell says that TIA has built its training programs specifically around this OSHA regulation.
Jones says that depending upon the size of the fleet, it's a good idea to have at least one person trained as an instructor. "A tire buster's position is usually an entry level position with high turnover," he says. "Having someone on staff that is trained and current will help with training new employees."
THREE MAGIC WORDS
According to everyone interviewed, the three magic words in tire care are air pressure maintenance.
"Air pressure maintenance is the key," says Walenga. "Tires require the right air pressure and maintenance of that pressure. It takes a long time to realize the value of proper air pressure maintenance, but only a few weeks to experience the effects of poor air pressure maintenance."
Air pressure maintenance in a lot of shops is very poor, according to Jones. "When a vehicle comes in for whatever reason," she says, "it is a good opportunity to check the tire air pressure."
Brodsky echoes this sentiment. "Almost 100 percent of those fleets of medium-duty vehicles are home every night so there is a golden opportunity to look at those tires every morning. Check the air pressure when the tire is cold, once a week at the very least, using an accurate truck tire gauge and not by kicking or thumping the tire," he says. "If you do this, you may as well thump the hood of your truck to determine if you need oil."
According to Brodsky, a tire that is driven with 20 percent or more under-inflation is considered to be a "run flat." A properly inflated tire, on average, will have a savings of about five percent on fuel over a tire that is not inflated properly.
"We also like to have technicians do the 'dirty hand' test," says Brodsky. "Once a week, run a hand across the tire and you will be amazed by how many problems can be resolved before they begin."
A fleet's air pressure management efforts can be enhanced by automatic inflation monitoring systems, according to Lee Fleishman, marketing director for Fleet Specialties, Co.