AKRON-Major truck tire retreaders continued to thrive in 1993 and many are planning to expand or enhance their production capabilities this year, according to TIRE BUSINESS' annual survey of North America's largest retreaders. Although the unusually frigid winter slowed business during the first two months of this year for truck tire retreaders in many areas, most expected an upturn in sales, the survey indicates.
Understandably, truck tire retreaders in the group surveyed, encouraged by a growing market, were among the most enthusiastic in mapping expansions.
In all, 12 of the largest truck tire retreaders said they plan to add new equipment and five are opening new facilities this year.
But whether their specialty is retreading medium truck, passenger, light truck or off-road tires, most retreaders talked about the same challenges-in particular, eroding profit margins.
As in past years, survey participants continued to voice concern about competition from low-priced new tires and direct sales to truck fleets by new-tire makers.
Shortages of casings in certain sizes and growing labor and insurance costs also were among their chief concerns.
With about 77 percent of the largest truck tire retreaders boosting their volume to varying degrees, there was some reshuffling of positions this year in TIRE BUSINESS' annual rankings, which are based on the amount of tread rubber used.
Conversely, many of the largest passenger/light truck tire retreaders and off-the-road tire retreaders either maintained their production levels or reduced output during 1993.
Goodyear continues to outdistance the pack as the largest truck tire retreader, consuming 25 million pounds of tread rubber in 1993-an 11.2-percent increase over 1992-to produce an average of 3,422 truck retreads daily.
That's double the closest contender, Treadco Inc. of Fort Smith, Ark., which increased its tread rubber consumption 11.6 percent to 12.5 million pounds in 1993 due to the acquisition of Trans World Tire Corp., with four retread plants in Florida.
Meanwhile, Les Schwab Tire Centers Inc. of Prineville, Ore., and Brad Ragan Inc., a Goodyear subsidiary, each retained their titles as the top producers of passenger/light truck tire retreads and off-the-road retreads, respectively.
Les Schwab increased its passenger/light truck tread rubber usage 12.5 percent in 1993 to 4.95 million pounds. Brad Ragan, on the other hand, kept its OTR retread production in 1993 about even with the previous year.
New Holland Tire Inc. of Terre Hill, Pa., increased its tread rubber consumption 15 percent last year to become the third largest truck tire retreader, up from a sixth place ranking in 1993.
New Holland replaced former third-ranked Brad Ragan, which essentially maintained its production levels over the past two years, but dropped to fifth place this year behind Purcell Tire & Rubber Co. of Potosi, Mo.-which had increased its rubber use 3.9 percent.
Bridgestone/Firestone Canada Inc. made the most dramatic repositioning in the rankings-plunging from fifth place on the previous year's rankings of truck tire retreaders to 19th this year. This was due to the sale of three of its Crown Tire Service division retread plants to Kal Tire of Vernon, British Columbia. This, in turn, propelled Kal Tire from 11th place to sixth in this year's rankings.
BFS Canada also fell off the passenger/light truck retreader rankings, but the company maintained its ninth place position in the OTR listing.
Among other big shifts in the rankings:
McGriff Treading Co. Inc. of Cullman, Ala., which built its fourth plant last year, increased its tread rubber use 24.1 percent to 3.97 million pounds in 1993 to produce an average 825 truck tires a day. The increase boosted the truck retreader from 14th on last year's ranking to ninth this year;
J.W. Brewer Tire Co. Inc. opened a Bandag plant in Idaho Falls, N.M., last June and plans to open another in Denver this April. The firm's 15 truck retread plants increased its tread rubber consumption for truck retreads from 2.78 million pounds in 1992 to 3.83 million pounds last year-elevating the company from 16th to 10th place in the rankings of medium truck tire retreading firms; and
Tread Systems Inc. of Anderson, S.C., boosted its average daily output to 350 passenger, light truck and racing tire retreads last year and consumed 600,000 pounds of tread rubber, compared with 450,000 the year before. This boosted the firm from ninth to seventh in this year's rankings of passenger/light truck retreaders.
A few firms are absent from this year's rankings, including:
Norva Corp. of Albuquerque, N.M., which ranked seventh among the largest passenger/light truck retreaders in last year's rankings, but closed its operations in the fall of 1993;
151 Tire Systems of Federalsburg, Md., a subsidiary of Preston Trucking Co., closed one of its three plants last year. This reduced the company's rubber consumption from 2.50 million pounds to 1.37 million and eliminated it from the rankings; and
Parrish Tire Co. of Winston-Salem, N.C., boosted its production slightly to 2.05 million pounds of tread rubber, but the truck tire retreader was squeezed out of the running by larger firms new to this year's listing.
These new entries to the three rankings include:
Pacific Coast Retreaders Inc. of Oakland, Calif., joins the truck tire retread rankings in 20th place based on its consumption of 2.75 million pounds of rubber last year in producing an average 540 tires per day, mostly for the intermodal industry;
Tire Centers Inc. of Akron came in 22nd place, tying Talin Tire Inc. of Long Beach, Calif., on the truck retreader list based on its use of 2.40 million pounds of tread rubber to produce an average 350 truck tires per day;
Bergey's Tire Service of Franconia, Pa., rounded out the truck tire retreader ranking at 25th place with its annual consumption of 2.36 million pounds of tread rubber in 1993 to produce an average 365 tires a day;
Butler Brothers Tire Co. of Marietta, Ga., which specializes in high performance, speed-rated retreads, took over sixth place in this year's passenger retreader rankings, having used 650,000 pounds of tread rubber in the production of an average 225 passenger tires and 50 light truck tires per day;
Becker Tire & Treading Inc. of Great Bend, Kan., took over as the eighth largest passenger/light truck retreader with tread rubber consumption of 513,600 pounds to produce an average 155 passenger retreads and 34 light truck retreads daily; and
Walters Tire Service of Somerset, Pa., joined the OTR tire retreader rankings at 14th place with 950,000 pounds of rubber, used for a daily average production of 14 OTR retreads.