Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations L.L.C. takes retreading of its commercial truck tires very seriously.
The company has developed a full education program at its education center in its LaVergne tire factory focusing on not only retreading tires, but also tire maintenance in general.
The classes, which are geared to the tire maker's dealers and fleet customers as well as Bridgestone personnel, cover topics such as why tires fail and becoming a certified retreading technician, according to Randy Hanson, plant technical training manager.
During a recent tour of the facility, Bridgestone showcased the process in which it determines whether a tire can be retreaded. From the start of the process—where the tire is thoroughly inspected—to the balancing of the tire and placement of the new tread, the whole retreading progression is completed within a single room.
“We all work together to complete one mission, to save money,” Mr. Hanson said.
From making small repairs to the tire, which he said often can make it stronger, to completely replacing the tread, customers are able to get more out of their tires for the money when retreading is part of the equation.
While roughly 22 gallons of oil are needed to produce one new truck tire, retreading requires only seven gallons, making it better for the environment and more economical for the customer, the tire maker said.
Bridgestone claims that retreading a tire once reduces the cost per mile by 17 percent, while retreading it a second time brings the cost down 29 percent.
“There is still the stigma that retreading is bad,” Mr. Hanson said. “Retreading has come a long way.”
Technology has helped retreading progress, he said, as machines have helped make inspecting tires and retreading them a more efficient process.
Much like baking a cake, different things are done with the tire before it is placed in an oven and thoroughly cooked for several hours.
“Rubber does not like to stick to steel,” Mr. Hanson said. “It takes a lot of engineering.”
Retreading is not the only thing that takes place at the education center.
Motlow State Community College in Lynchburg, Tenn., has developed a mechatronics classroom inside the facility, complete with a garage. The program, which had its first class in the facility in August, is an engineering science program that looks to the mechanical, electronic and data processing parts of a technical system, according to the college.
“There is actually a need for people,” Mr. Hanson said. “They (the students) have to be able to do 100 percent (of the work) when they go back.”
With the program not cutting any corners, the plant has space for students to work on tractor trailers so they know what they are doing. “We're very excited about it,” he said. “It's certainly something we have never done before.”
The class allows students to learn how to do full maintenance on fleets through hands-on experience, as opposed to learning about it through a book.
“It's actually getting up and getting dirty,” Mr. Hanson said.