The challenges facing the tire specialist are becoming more varied and more complex every day. To remain successful in the coming years you owe it to yourself, your workforce and your customers to make sure your employees are properly trained. Each year, thousands of expensive radial tires are being scrapped out of ignorance. Users are paying dearly because of premature tire failures-the result of poorly done repairs or the scrapping of repairable casings because technicians were ignorant of the proper repair techniques.
Industry sources have repeatedly pointed out that a third of the tires discarded could be salvaged using proper repair methods.
Over many years in this industry, I have observed that most employees have received little or no training in the art of tire retreading or repairing.
Even now, with a number of training facilities available to the industry, a recent survey by Rema Tip Top North America Inc. indicated that eight in 10 repair technicians taking the company's training course never had previous formal training in tire repair.
Obviously, many firms are not making an effort to train their employees so they really understand and do their jobs well.
Thus it appears that if our industry was ever ``ripe for a crusade,'' the time is now. We must get tire repairing out of the ``back room'' and into the forefront as an important element in promoting highway safety and conserving our petroleum resources.
Too many shops are still using inferior methods, materials and equipment, despite the increased threat of product liability lawsuits due to failures of repaired tires.
A common approach to training is to assign the task to an experienced employee. However, even though the experienced employee might be the best or most experienced in the shop, there is no guarantee that he or she is equally skilled at teaching. And if that experienced employee doesn't know how to teach, learning may not be taking place either.
Proper training is the cornerstone of success-whether it involves sales, tire service, retreading or repairing.
Recently, while waiting for my car to be serviced, I overheard a service advisor tell a customer that one of the tires on her car was low and it would take only a few minutes to repair.
The customer said the tire had been losing air for several months and told the service advisor to go ahead with repair, provided it wouldn't take too long.
The young woman was surprised at the short time the job actually took. She gladly paid $7.50 for the repair and was soon on her way.
However, I queried the service advisor as to why the tire was plugged and not properly repaired. Since the tire had been losing air over a period of time, how could he know what other damage may have occurred?
I pointed out that all the plug did was to fill the hole, whereas a repair patch will keep the air in the tire.
The young service advisor was quite surprised at this, since the only training he'd received was from the repair materials salesman who showed him how to install a plug.
At this point I described a lawsuit against a car dealer who had used the same plugging procedure. The tire later had failed, resulting in an accident that totalled the car and hospitalized its driver.
As a result, the car dealer lost a big-bucks lawsuit and almost lost his business. Plug repairs are only temporary at best. A patch must always be installed to seal air in the tire.
For years now, the industry has had available an assortment of training centers, in-shop training programs and seminars specializing in radial tire repair.
Among these is Bandag Inc.'s $1.5 million, 24,000-sq.-ft. training center in Muscatine, Iowa, which supplies the company's franchised dealers with tuition-free training in the retreading and repairing of truck, passenger and industrial tires.
Other retread equipment and materials suppliers, such as Oliver Rubber Co., Hercules Tire and Rubber Co. and Retreading Equipment Inc. also have training centers for their customers.
Meanwhile, repair material manufacturers Tech International, Patch Rubber Co., Rema and Truflex/Pang Rubber Products also have been active with their training centers.
Despite the variety of training programs available, many shops have not taken advantage of them.
In contrast, in Germany a tire repairman does not actually work on tires until after completing an apprentice training program and earning certification as a ``Tire Repairer.''
In England, British Standards Institution specification BSAU159 spells out what can and cannot be done in repairing tires. It is vigorously enforced.
Here in the U.S., however, there are no federal or state regulations concerning the processing of repaired tires. The only restriction on repaired truck tires is a generally agreed upon dimensional limited to a sidewall repair bulge of 3/8-inch. In Europe, the limit is 5/32-inch (4mm). That ought to tell us something about quality.
We must keep in mind that the long-term reason for training is to help achieve a profitable future.