Most Rubber on the Road’s not from Retreads

freight transportation

Beside any major highway there are chunks of rubber lying alongside the road. A common belief is that these are bits of retreaded truck tires, but this isn’t usually the case.

Careful examination of those bits and pieces will show that they usually include sections of the tire carcass itself, together with steel belts and other component materials.

It’s not simply that the tread has separated from the body of the tire. What has happened is that the tire itself has broken up and centrifugal force has thrown bits of it onto the road.

Whether a tire is new or retreaded, it is meant to operate within its limits. This means that the correct inflation pressure must be used, that the tire should not have to carry more than its intended load and that no foreign object is allowed to puncture the tire. cargo van

Ed Wagner, formerly retread/repair editor of Modern Tire Dealer magazine, states: “Rubber on the road, in my opinion, is not caused by defective tires, new or retreaded. It is primarily caused by insufficient air pressure.

“Many truckers fail to verify air pressure on a periodic basis and, as a result, operate their tires from 25% to 50% below required pressure levels.”

Overloading can also cause heat buildup and lead to rapid tire failure in the form of a blowout. Punctures too can cause a sudden breaking up of the tire, and can even damage another tire on the same axle by creating a sudden overload situation.

Retreading is an Economic Necessity

To contain enormous running costs the transport industry must use retreaded tires. When it’s considered that a multiple driver rig can be on the road 24 hours a day, seven days a week, tire expenses become a significant factor to a transport operator.

This fact is recognized by tire manufacturers who know that tires are one of the top three expenditures for truck owners, after fuel and labor costs.

Goodyear even operates a cradle-to-grave program that includes retreads, and tells owners: “So whether you operate long haul, regional or mixed service trucks, you can get the performance you need by choosing from our application specific tread designs that offer like new performance at a lower cost than new tires.” (Goodyear Retreads,

Transport professionals obviously have a high regard for retreads and appreciate the economies they can make by using them. In 2009, a year of tough economic times, US domestic retreaders produced more than 13 million truck tire retreads, down 10% on the previous year.

By comparison, new replacement truck tire shipments totaled 12.5 million units, a massive drop of 19.3% on the previous year. (Top Retreaders,

Recycling Tires is Environmentally-friendly

Properly maintained tires that haven’t experienced any serious in-use traumas can be safely retreaded many times.

According to retreading expert Marvin Bozarth, former executive director of the American Retreaders Association, a retreaded tire can go for 200,000 miles (320,000 km) or even more. (Truck News, July 2004,

Retreading is a form of recycling, reducing the need for raw materials to manufacture new tires and doubling or tripling a tire’s service life. This make retreads environmentally friendly.

The California-based Tire Retread& Repair Information Bureau (TRIB) tells us that: “It takes approximately 22 gallons of oil to manufacture one new truck tire. Most of the oil is found in the casing, which is reused in the retreading process.

“As a result, it takes only approximately 7 gallons of oil to produce a retread. Wide based truck tires save even more fuel.” (Retread Facts,

Retreading also reduces our global transport costs by billions of dollars annually.

“Retreaded truck tires represent a savings of over $3 billion dollars annually for truckers and trucking companies in North America.” (Retread Facts,

All Tires must be kept within their Limitations

Retreaded or brand-new, the inevitable consequence of driving a tire beyond its limits is structural failure, causing a blowout or a breaking-up of the tire.

Harvey Brodsky, TRIB’s Managing Director, summarizes the situation: “The main cause of rubber on the road is improper tire maintenance, primarily underinflation, closely followed by mismatched tires on dual wheel positions, misaligned vehicles and tires run with less than the legal limit of tread rubber.

“Tires that are driven with any of the above problems will fail, given enough time, and when they do they will come apart and leave an often deadly trail of tire debris all over the highway.” (Rubber on the Road, Issues & Answers,

The amount of tire shreds beside roads is misleading. It may look like there is a high incidence of tire failures on large trucks, but in fact the percentage of tires that fail, whether retreaded or new, is very small compared to the total number in use and the millions of miles they travel.

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