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Retread Truths

As the Marketing Manager here at JAM, I’ve sorta become the “quality assurance chick” when it comes to anything that involves branding, media publications, our physical and digital presence, and most recently, a quality controller of sorts when it comes to incoming breakdown service calls. As a long-time student of the customer experience, this last “hat” has been an interesting one to wear. Most people wouldn’t consider listening to several hours of phone calls each week as “fun,” but it has helped improve our client experience by leaps and bounds and opened my eyes to ideas in the industry I wouldn’t have probably picked up on otherwise.

The one that I wanted to discuss today was the idea of a retreaded tire being sub-par to its brand-spanking-slap-you-in-the-face-with-the cost-of-it-new counterpart. (As an aside, just for a laugh, if you would’ve told me what a new commerical tire costs before I started in this industry, I just flat out Would. Not. Have. Believed. You. Ridiculousness. Furthermore, I still think their cost is crazy. I’m just a little more conditioned to it now.)

Anyway, through listening to a number of phone calls, it shocked me the number of people that scoffed at the mention of running a retread. A tour of the retread plant is one of the first things you do when you’re hired at JAM. I think I was 2 days in and 6 months pregnant when I went for mine. I was fortunate enough to be accompanied by the owner of the company (whose breadth of knowledge as far as tires is concerned is crazy impressive) and the President at the retread plant Dave Mitchell. To say I was in well educated company would have been a major understatement. These guys not only know tires, but they know retreads. It’s their business. So of course, we peppered them with 1000 questions that were all patiently met with answers backed by hard testing and empirical evidence. I think they may have actually enjoyed that tour a little bit more than the rest, the bulk of us skeptics.  Either way and not surprisingly, I left a believer.

And, also not surprisingly, I became unconsciously competent about retreads. I just naturally assumed that everybody ran them. I mean… really?  Why wouldn’t they?! So when I started listening in on these calls, it shocked me when fleet managers, dispatchers, or drivers would sound their offense when our counter staff asked if they “were they looking for new or capped?”

“Oh Lord no. I’m not putting a recap on my truck.”

“Seriously? Yeah, no thanks. We ONLY run new tires.”

Curious, I did an internet search for new tires versus retreads and holy heck: there’s a lot of misinformation out there. Alternately, there IS a lot of good information too, if you actually take the time to slog through it all. I’m going to have to guess that the bulk of these callers just formed their opinions before they did any research.

The bottom line is – there is NO evidence to show that a retread tire is any less safe than a new tire. If anything, evidence proves that a capped tire IS just as safe. A 2008 study conducted by the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (dated but still relevant) showed that debris collected from highways at that time was  “similar to the estimated proportion of new and retread tires currently in service.” Basically, there weren’t any more of one or the other found. And the type of tire (new vs. retread) did not play a part in the cause of failure. The highest cited causes of failure then and now, can be attributed to human error: underinflation and overloading.

The problem remains with the public’s perception of the situation. It does seem almost counter-intuitive to think that a re-done anything would be as good as the original. But… really people? It’s 2015. We’re doing a lot of things that were previously “unbelievable.”  And when you look at a side by side comparison of real and environmental cost of a new versus retread tire, retreads really do make more sense. 

Still feel unsure? Call your local retread plant and sign up for a tour. You’ll be amazed at what you learn – and I can almost guarantee – you’ll leave willing to give them a shot.

Post On: September 23, 2015
Tags : Fleet technology | The bottom line | Tires |
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