While the retread industry has done a good job of convincing the trucking industry of the economic benefits of retreaded tires, it has been less successful in persuading the public sector.
That was the message from Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB), while speaking at the Clemson University Tire Industry Conference, held in Hilton Head Feb. 26-28.
``The U.S. federal government operates the world's largest fleet of vehicles, yet only a very small percentage of these vehicles use retreads,'' said Mr. Brodsky, who has driven with retreaded tires on his car for more than 25 years.
He can understand the oversight when it comes to passenger vehicle fleets because retreads no longer offer a price advantage over new tires. But from light truck tires on up, the TRIB director just can't understand the reluctance.
``Retreads will nearly always be less expensive than comparable new tires for these sizes,'' he said, ``and when life-cycle costing is factored in, retreads will always be more economical than comparable new tires.''
There are a number of city, county, state and federal fleets that do use retreads and are happy with the product, but those remain a minority. TRIB has been instrumental, Mr. Brodsky said, in trying to educate the public sector about the economic and environmental benefits of retreads.
``We may look round and black, but we're really green,'' he said. ``We can keep tires out of landfills indefinitely, not to mention all the money we can save public sector fleets.''
Despite these efforts, though, many fleet managers continue to give reasons why they don't buy retreads. Excuses include that the drivers refuse to drive on retreads; the union won't allow them because retreads aren't safe; new tires cost less; or they had a past bad experience with retreads.
``In too many cases, the person resisting just doesn't want to be confused with the facts,'' Mr. Brodsky said.
In these cases, the TRIB director said he continues to ``preach the message,'' but he is never confrontational. But Mr. Brodsky also knows that it's imperative the industry continue to win converts in the public sector, which he calls the ``last frontier'' of new business for retreaders in North America.
``One of the most effective ways to change an attitude is to convince the fleet manager to allow us to conduct a tour of a retread plant for him and his key people, including drivers and union representatives,'' he said. ``We have had nearly 100-percent success in changing the minds of fleet managers whenever we have conducted a plant tour. This of course leads to new business for our members, which is the name of the game.''
TRIB also continually reminds public sector fleet managers of Federal Executive Order 13149, which mandates the use of retreads on most public sector vehicles. ``The smart ones, though, know the mandate has no teeth,'' Mr. Brodsky added.