As trucks roll into Easter Tire Inc.'s commercial tire center, the Lima-based dealership performs a complete inspection of not only the tire and wheel assembly but also the trailers.
Easter Tire is one of a few commercial tire dealerships that have served as models for a new Bandag Inc. preventive maintenance program called Trailer Readiness. Kurt Emans, president of Easter Tire, said his dealership sells and services tires and retreads but also goes beyond those traditional services to offering brake, suspension and tire repair for those vehicles. It also custom makes springs and U-bolts for fleets and RVs.
When Bandag considered establishing a dealer program to inspect trailers for maintenance issues a few years ago, the Muscatine, Iowa-based company looked to Easter Tire for some help, Mr. Emans told Tire Business. Most tire dealers typically inspect tires and wheels to keep trucks rolling but don't necessarily have the training or resources to check if fleets have other problems that also could keep them off the road, he explained.
``There were a handful of dealers that (Bandag) looked at that did or do Trailer Readiness, and we were one of those that they looked at and took ideas from and modeled,'' Mr. Emans noted.
Bandag officials declined to comment on Trailer Readiness for this story. However, a company spokesman told Tire Business that the program was rolled out in the past year as a controlled launch at selected dealerships. He said the program is all about offering national accounts a consistent service through Bandag's franchise network.
The service includes safety checks that trucks often receive at weigh stations to make sure they're Department of Transportation (DOT)-compliant in areas such as examining brakes and lights, the spokesman said. Those inspections, in addition to tires and wheels, keep trucks in service and thus save on downtime costs-and ``that's what it's all about: to keep the fleets rolling and improve uptime,'' the Bandag spokesman said. ``It goes right along with tires, and that's why it makes sense to do that.''
Bandag declined to disclose how many dealers are participating in the program. Mr. Emans said Trailer Readiness still is in its infancy but that it eventually will become ISO-certified.
Mr. Emans added that oftentimes fleets have their own checklists of what they want Easter Tire to inspect, which usually includes brake and electrical problems.
He said Bandag doesn't have one ``mold or blueprint'' for all dealers to follow within the Trailer Readiness program because it's a segment of the commercial business that no one in the tire industry has focused on in the past.
``Tire dealers have addressed tires, retreading, rim reconditioning and replacing the stud and nuts and what have you, but as far as the trailer maintenance part of it, it's really never been addressed,'' Mr. Emans said. ``They just think, `Oh just get the tires on it and get it back.' Well, if you look at it, some of the trailers have been out of circulation six, seven, eight months, and who knows what could be wrong with them.''
Special training is needed for Trailer Readiness, and Mr. Emans said Bandag trained his employees on how to follow some large fleets' checklists and inspect everything they had mandated for their trailers. But as far as mechanical training and DOT certification, he said his employees received that type of education through a local community college.
Easter Tire, a 54-year-old dealership founded by Mr. Emans' father, operates six locations in northwest Ohio and carries Bridgestone, BFGoodrich, Carlisle, Cooper, Goodyear, Kelly and Michelin brands.
It also operates a Bandag retread plant, turning out 130 retreads a day.
Easter Tire has done trailer repairs for years, so some advantages it offers beyond Trailer Readiness inspections include sending ``spotter trucks'' equipped to air up or power up broken-down trailers and do brake repair on-site. If the trailers need more extensive repair, Easter Tire employees bring the trailers to the dealership's facility, he explained.
``It's a growing business,'' Mr. Emans said. ``It's more like a niche business than some type of established program.''