FALLS CHURCH, Va. — If ever there was a time for tenacity in the retread industry, this is it.
Or, in the words of Louis Pasteur: “Let me tell you the secret that has led to my goal. My strength lies solely in my tenacity.”
These words of the creator of pasteurization and inventor of multiple vaccines are worth considering as the retread industry faces a fresh set of challenges in delivering safe, economical and sustainable products to keep the transportation industry rolling.
Like much of the world, the member companies of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB) have been impacted by COVID-19.
Our members have adapted quickly to changing circumstances, have ensured their employees remain safe and have been active in helping their communities get through this challenge. Since transportation and the industries that support it are considered essential, our retread plant members have remained open to meet the tire repair and retread needs of their customers.
The impacts of this pandemic on retreaders change depending on the regions where they operate and the different customers they serve. Retreaders in strict shelter-in-place localities are seeing business slow down compared with businesses operating in areas with fewer restrictions.
Some retreaders actually have seen increases in sales as their customers stock up on tires because of perceived concerns about future supply-chain issues.
The types of customers retreaders serve also have an impact on business. Waste haulers are still busy and some construction projects are moving forward as long as they can practice safe distancing protocols.
Grocery stores still stock their shelves and people at home need deliveries. However, retreaders that supply tires to buses, school districts or the industries that serve them are experiencing decreases in sales.
Everyone realizes that the second quarter will be difficult for many, and companies are making the adjustments they need to emerge strongly in the third quarter.
Some retreaders have reduced hours or have made some personnel changes to accommodate reductions in demand. There still remains a high degree of optimism about how things will bounce back for the industry later in the summer.
At the same time, there is a degree of uncertainty about what will unfold in the coming days or weeks with coronavirus and the different impact it may have on other regions of the U.S.
Most TRIB supplier member companies have been able to keep operations going and to provide the products needed for the retread industry.
Although some of them have seen small decreases in sales, they are taking this time to stock up on raw materials. This will ensure there are no shortages for their retread customers today and that they will be ready for the eventual uptick in business.
All of our member companies are adhering to business practices that are designed to protect their employees and their community, including moving all non-plant employees to remote working, increasing the frequency and scope of cleaning and disinfecting regimens, practicing safe distancing protocols in plants, which includes not allowing plant tours, scrap inspections, or salesperson visits at plants; limiting numbers in break rooms; changing sign-in procedures; and ensuring that unwell employees are staying home until their symptoms disappear.
Our communities rely on trucks and truckers to deliver the groceries and supplies we all need everyday, but especially in times like these. Drivers and fleets rely on retreaders to deliver a safe, reliable product that allows them to provide on-time delivery at the lowest possible cost.
And in keeping with their long history of community involvement, retreaders are going beyond just keeping trucks rolling. They're doing things like offering deep discounts to first responders or individuals and businesses that need a little extra help. They're providing reduced or free shipping for some customers.
Or, they are directly helping the fight against coronavirus by donating protective eye gear, gloves and other supplies from their plants to their local hospitals.
Retreaders have faced difficult times before, and they've always found ways to adapt, survive and thrive. Our industry's strength lies in the ability to focus on the needs of customers, communities and employees.
Our industry's collective tenacity will ensure we finish this journey stronger than when we started.
David Stevens is the managing director of the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB).