AKRON (April 24, 2000)—Just a few years ago, Rick Hawkins and his family owned a dealership that had six retail locations in Colorado and manufactured and sold 35,000 retreaded passenger tires a year.
Eventually, the business was sold, in part due to that retreading segment´s decline.
Now his new company, High-Tec Retreading in Edgemont, S.D., produces just light truck retreads—about 6,000 per year.
Mr. Hawkins markets his product through farm and ranch publications, off-road enthusiast magazines and on the World Wide Web.
"I send tires to Alaska. I´ve sent them to the South Pacific. I send them to A.P.O.s (military personnel)," he said.
High-Tec ships an average of 240 tires, half of a typical month´s output, directly to customers, he said; the remainder is distributed through eight wholesalers.
Like a number of other retreaders, he is replacing passenger tire output with light truck retreads.
While the International Tire and Rubber Association (ITRA) reports sales of LT retreads have slipped in recent years, the drop hasn´t been as precipitous as for passenger retreads.
ITRA projects this year´s LT retread production in the U.S. will be about 5.9 million units, down 3.3 percent from the 6.1 million units produced in 1999. Retreaders produced 6.8 million LT units in 1998.
For the last three years at Gossco Inc., St. Johnsbury, Vt., LT retread sales have grown by about 7 percent a year, President Sally Goss said.
LT retreads are usually about 30 percent cheaper than new tires, she said, and can be 60-70 percent less than premium tire brands.
A Major Tyre Co. Inc. in Bridgeport, Conn., also supplies retreaded LT tires for postal trucks and wholesales some to dealers. President Donna Puskar said this niche market, which includes taxi and utility companies, remains viable.
LT retreading "has been very good for years and years," said Jack Holbert, president of Mt. Morris Tire Service Inc. in Mount Morris, Pa. The company retreads about 80 LT tires a day, he said, and keeps a big inventory because of the expanding market for replacement LT tires.
"It seems like every year manufacturers put out a new truck with new size tires," he said. "It drives us small retreaders crazy."
Goodyear produces an average of 390 LT retreads per day at its retread plants, and retreading is part of the Akron-based company´s manufacturing strategy.
JB Jaboor, general manager of retread systems at Goodyear, said most of its LT retreads go to companies that make door-to-door and business-to-business deliveries.
"We developed steel-steel (steel belts and steel plies) radial light truck tires to provide for the needs of these couriers," he said. These tires are more durable and provide casings that can be retreaded two or three times.
Goodyear´s shops will retread fabric-ply tires for select customers, Mr. Jaboor said, but the company recommends "steel-steel" tires for the LT market now. Goodyear also consults with customers in the package delivery industry to develop new tires.
Goodyear recently introduced the G647 RSS (regional service steer), a new 19.5-inch steel-belted radial tire with steel plies for package delivery vans. It was designed in consultation with Federal Express.