WASHINGTON (April 21, 2000)—In the dawn of the new century, e-commerce is the word on the lips of every retailer. Everything from antiques to zoology textbooks is being marketed over the Internet.
Tire dealers, retreaders, truckers and their suppliers have been quick to take advantage of e-commerce by establishing their own Internet sales networks. People in the industry can cruise the ´Net for everything from buying a set of retreads, to finding the best deal on motor oil, to getting the exact location of the nearest trucker-friendly motel.
However, with the proliferation of sites within the tire and supplier industries, Web site holders have to work extra hard to be noticed in the crowd. The following tire-related Web sites—though in varying states of operation—are all trying to stand out through the variety, quality and/or nature of services they offer.
Three of these sites—TreadRubber.com, Retread.com and CasingSales.com—are operated by Mike Evans and Clayton Murphy, executive vice president and vice president of sales, respectively, of Treadrubber Corp., Ocoee, Fla. Mr. Evans also is owner of Evans Tires & Treads, a commercial truck tire dealership and retreading operation in Ocoee, near Orlando, and Mr. Murphy is vice president of sales for Evans Tires.
Each of the Web sites covers a different aspect of their business. From TreadRubber.com, retreaders can buy a wide variety of premium tread rubber products, which Treadrubber Corp. obtains from its Brazilian supplier, Borrachas Vipal S.A.
CasingSales.com is their Web site for buying and selling truck, off-road, intermodal, military and miscellaneous casings and used truck tires. Retread.com features the products of Evans Tires´ independent truck tire retreading operations, in business since 1979.
Evans Tires produces about 750 truck tire retreads a month from its facilities near Orlando and Jacksonville, Mr. Evans said. "We´re a pretty high-volume producer of retreads," he said.
Mr. Evans plans to add several new features to the Web sites in the very near future, including a "shopping cart" feature for retread and new-tire purchases, online credit services and check approval through the new "Chexpedite" system.
A independent commercial tire dealer also is behind the newest site on this list, Bethlehem, Pa.-based TireCasings.com.
The brainchild of Walt Dealtrey, chairman of Bethlehem-based Service Tire Truck Centers, TireCasings.com is set to go online the week of May 1 in time for the ITRA show, where the Web site will have a booth, Webmaster Michael Betz said.
"The site´s up for testing now, but we still have some testing to do," Mr. Betz said. "We want to make sure it´s perfect for the introduction."
TireCasings.com bills itself as "the first Internet-based database designed to serve the needs of casing buyers throughout the world."
The Web site will give its users access to a wide range of available casings and the capability to post purchase requests according to size, manufacturer, grade and price, the company said. It will charge what it described as "a low annual registration fee" for unlimited use of its database.
Service Tire Truck Centers has 16 commercial outlets in Pennsylvania, is a major Bandag retreader and recently announced plans to expand its Bethlehem headquarters to include an exhanced employee training facility.
Raleigh, N.C.-based etread.com offers a forum for retreaders to buy and sell retreads, supplies, machinery and other items. The site features both a sales section—for selling buffing blades, tread cement, etc.—and an auction site for sale mostly of equipment and larger items.
"Strength in numbers" is what etread.com offers retreaders, according to the Web site. "A company retreading 30 tires a day can already save $4,000 per year by purchasing supplies through etread.com," it said on its home page.
In January, co-owners John Flake and Jack Waggoner said they hoped to enter the European market by starting a Web site in Italy. But those plans and others have been temporarily put on hold, Mr. Waggoner said.
"We´re trying to redo our site," he said early in April. "We´re waiting for our computer guru on the East Coast to get to us. It may be a month or so before we´re back online."
Smoewhat more narrowly focused is TruckTreads.com, operated by Datanational Corp. in Farmington, Mich., which offers for sale only truck tires retreaded by the Bandag process.
"We have an agreement with a large Bandag dealer that can satisfy the demand for paid delivery outside of Michigan," said Paul M. Greenstone, chairman and CEO of Datanational, which is also 50-percent owner of the site.
Mr. Greenstone declined to name the dealer, but said the operation prides itself on filling orders 24 hours a day, seven days a week. As with Retread.com, the minimum order of retreads for TruckTreads.com is eight, but the usual order is a container of 240 or more.
"There may be other retreaders on the site someday, but not yet," he said.
Designed to serve the broader commercial tire market, Northbrook, Ill.-based www.trucktireXchange.com opened for business April 21.
Billed as "the first and only online business-to-business, e-commerce site dedicated to the $9 billion North American truck tire market," www.trucktireXchange.com is designed to help tire dealers and distributors in the U.S. and Canada to streamline the location, purchase and acquisition of new and retreaded truck tires, according to company publicity.
"We offer an innovative approach to the dealers and distributors that will minimize the time, labor and shipping costs of acquiring a tire, thereby maximizing the profitability of their businesses," co-owner and President Marc Imyak said in a prepared statement. "Our service replaces the exhausting hours on the phone with the speed of a simple point and click."
Among the services www.trucktireXchange.com offers to members are the ability to access available inventory, post their own available inventory, post whatever tires they need, track the market and oversee their own purchases via the Internet, the company said. Membership in the site is free, but the company charges a 3-percent fee for every transaction.
TireSolutions-USA.com, which went on line last December, aims to provides answers to any consumer tire question and match tire buyers with dealers who can supply what they´re looking for.
Keith Rowell, a former official of Bridgestone/Firestone Off Road Tire Co., is president and CEO of Rowell Inc., which operates the site.
Mr. Rowell said his site currently is the largest Internet tire dealer directory in the world, with more than 106,000 listings. The list includes some 39,000 first-line tire dealers plus another 67,000 secondary tire sellers in aircraft, motorcycle, boat, trailer, and other segments. "Anybody who will sell a tire, we list," he said.
TireSolutions-USA averages about 30,000 hits a month, mostly from tire buyers, Mr. Rowell said. It offers enhanced listings to interested tire dealers at $50 a month or $500 annually.
The site also offers a section where dealers can buy or sell used tire equipment, and promote´s Rowell Inc.´s services as an OTR tire engineering consultant to OTR tire dealers and mining and construction businesses.
In addition, the site offers technical information on tires free to the public.
²``That information is for people who don´t understand what tire pressure information or load ratings mean," Mr. Rowell said.
Including, but going well beyond just commercial tires, Manitoba-based www.TruckDown.com lists every imaginable service for truckers and fleet managers, designed to give them fast information on where to find towing companies, repair shops, mobile repair services and anything else they might need.
TruckDown now lists more than 23,000 service providers for every aspect of the trucking industry, according to webmaster Bob Toews. The site gives basic listings for free, but also offers several categories of enhanced listings and display advertising at graduated rates for companies interested in raising their profiles via the Net.
Indianapolis-based trucking company Celadon Group Inc. has established a Web site, TruckersCo-op.com, which takes the old co-op purchasing concept and puts it on the Net, according to Stephen Russell, chairman and CEO of Celadon.
By using the co-operative system offered by TruckersCo-op.com, truckers can achieve "meaningful savings" on all their needs from fuel and motor oil to insurance, Mr. Russell said.
TruckersCo-op now boasts more than 1,000 trucking company members representing about 80,000 rigs. The company recently announced it had distributed its first monthly round of fuel rebate checks to 37 member companies, ranging from $3 to $18 for each of the 2,500 trucks represented.
"We are going to be offering tires and retreads as well, but we´re not ready to talk about that until public announcements are made," he said.
Meanwhile, TruckersCo-op has signed a marketing agreement with PNV Inc., a Coral Springs, Fla.-based Internet provider specializing in the long-haul trucking industry. "The PNV agreement allows TruckersCo-op.com members convenient and discounted access to the Internet," Mr. Russell said in a press release.