The U.S. Postal Service's plan to issue a nationwide contract for retread tire procurement is unworkable and shows scant knowledge of the way the retread industry works, according to representatives of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) and the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB).
``These are nice guys, and their hearts are in the right place,'' said Harvey Brodsky, TRIB managing director. ``But the way they're going about it is totally wrong.''
The USPS announced its plans last fall to issue a contract to a large retread technology company to handle all the agency's retreading. Although the bid involves a wide variety of tire sizes, the bulk of it involves the 14- and 15-inch tires the agency most often uses. Last year the USPS retreaded about 70,000 of these smaller tires, according to Marvin Bozarth, TIA senior technical consultant.
Mr. Bozarth, Mr. Brodsky and other industry representatives met Jan. 7 with USPS procurement officials in Philadelphia to discuss plans for the contract. The retread industry asked for the meeting because of fears the nationwide account could prove damaging to smaller retreaders that depended on local or regional contracts from the USPS.
Attendees at the meeting included the bidders on the contract: Goodyear, which bid on the truck tire portion only; Oliver Rubber Co.; and Heartland Retreads, a retreader in Woodsfield, Ohio.
While the meeting was completely amicable, Mr. Brodsky said, the agency officials presented their plan ``as a fait accompli.'' He said he was even more concerned after the meeting, when an attendee he declined to name gave him an eight-page USPS document, Statement of Work-Performance-Based Retread Tires, which gave the rationale for the national contract plan.
``That document is so crazy, there's no way anybody could make a success of the project,'' Mr. Brodsky said. ``It doesn't have the chance of a snowball in hell.''
The goal of the USPS is to increase its retread usage to 70 percent within three years from the current 20 percent, he said, but its current methodology will ensure that its retread use will never increase significantly.
The problem with the document, according to Messrs. Brodsky and Bozarth, is that its authors had extremely unrealistic ideas about the retreading industry.
``The people who wrote this, they're used to buying wheels and parts, but they don't understand how unique the retreading industry is,'' Mr. Bozarth said. For example, the plan requires that all tires for retreading be picked up within 24 hours, no matter where they're located, and that is totally unrealistic, he said.
It also states that sidewalls are not to be repaired under any circumstances, ``and that's like taking dollar bills and throwing them out the window,'' Mr. Brodsky said. ``There are plenty of circumstances under which sidewalls can be repaired.''
The USPS plan further demands information on subjects such as the age and type of equipment being used and the experience of the operators.
``What for?'' Mr. Brodsky asked. ``Who knows enough about retreading at the USPS to make that information relevant?''
When asked why they hadn't called TIA and TRIB before they wrote the contract, USPS officers said the agency had posted its plans on the new government Web site, www.fedbizops.gov, for months before making them official.
The problem was, Messrs. Brodsky and Bozarth said, no one in the retreading industry or in its associations knew anything about that Web site. ``They're used to looking in the Federal Register for those things,'' Mr. Bozarth said.
Mr. Brodsky added that TIA and TRIB now check the site every day. ``I told them I wish they'd called TIA and TRIB when they had this idea,'' he said. ``We could have had a very good program, but they went down the wrong path. I'll be glad to eat those words, but I don't think I'll have to.''
Meanwhile, the USPS requested further information from TIA, TRIB and the contract bidders pertaining to the contract by Jan. 21, according to Mr. Bozarth. ``They want to know how many of their casings are retreaded, how many are scrapped and why,'' he said. ``They said they've never had that information, and they want to get it.''
Mr. Brodsky said one official within the USPS told him he would take TIA's and TRIB's concerns to the highest levels of the agency. When contacted, however, that official deferred all questions to the USPS media affairs department, which did not return calls from Tire Business.