“Re Tyre" aimed at securing the future of medium-sized retreaders
Now that its financing appears secure and all pertinent formalities are expected to be sorted out in Brussels any day now, work linked to the “Re Tyre” project is now ready to commence. With the aid of results gained from this study one of its backers, the European retreading association BIPAVER, aims first and foremost to secure the continued existence of medium-sized retreading businesses.
These are the companies generally considered to be most at risk from EU legislation, specifically in regards to type approval procedures and tyre labeling: Retreads are exempt from this until at least 2015, however it is widely feared that policy applying to new tyres could also potentially be adopted as-is for these products. This would have far reaching consequences for retreaders, not least a considerable price tag that would very likely render retreading an untenable business for some.
The potential scale of this issue can be seen simply by outlining an example. As of 2012 every type approved new tyre must display a marking regarding rolling resistance, wet grip and external noise emissions. To grade each of these categories essential test values must be measured for every non-identical tyre produced. And this is where the fly in the ointment lies: Even when two retreaded tyres appear externally to be the identical model with the same dimensions, under the surface may lurk a casing from manufacturer A – a casing that differs from those produced by manufacturer B. If type approval requirements for labeling are the same as those for new tyres, then both of these tyres would need to be tested.
Casing origin is just one factor to consider. It is not hard to envision the speed at which testing costs would snowball and how high they could stack up when all additional variables related to the retreading process are taken into account: Consider casings of various vintages or the application of treads from any of a number of material suppliers – the variations in tread pattern and depth plus process parameters such as how strong the cushion gum is or the buffing radius – not to mention whether a tyre will be retreaded according to the pre-cure or mould cure procedure. It can be said that “nobody knows nothing exact“ at the moment regarding what influence the numerous variables associated with the production of a retreaded tyre ultimately have and can have on its rolling resistance, wet grip and noise emission properties.
“To be honest, we retreaders don’t know too much about our product. While we have a considerable wealth of practical experience, we admittedly don’t have knowledge in regards to scientific documentation,” comments Hans-Jürgen Drechsler, managing director of Germany’s Federal Tyre Trade and the Vulcanisers’ Skilled Trade Association (BRV). To rectify this the BRV, along with other European retreading organisations, decided at a BIPAVER retreading conference in early July to contribute to the financing of the “Re Tyre” project.
The aim of this study is to first acquire scientifically-based knowledge and then, using this as a basis, submit a proposal on EU policy and how the legal requirements for tyre labeling and type approval from 2015/2017 can also be extended to retreads without the sector becoming “tested to bits”. The idea behind all this is a BIPAVER proposal related to ECE-R 109. In plain English, the study’s aim is to guarantee that issues specific to retreading (casings from various manufacturers and of different ages, the use of treads from different manufacturers etc.) are taken into consideration in any upcoming legislation. This will prevent them being “tinkered” with in the long-term, comments BIPAVER technical consultant Michael Schwämmlein.
What then is planned under the umbrella of the “Re Tyre” project, which is expected to run for around three years? It is anticipated that it will initially focus exclusively upon truck tyres due to their greater market significance and will tackle the issues at hand in a series of stages. The first phase deals with the “creation of a virtual casing.” This will help determine how great an influence a tyre’s substructure has on the relevant parameters and an emphasis will be placed upon rolling resistance. For this a selection of casings from a number of tyre makers – eight to ten brands are under consideration – and of various ages (two, four and six years) will be buffed to up to two millimetres over the breaker and then have their rolling resistance analysed through testing.
The end of the first project stage is punctuated by arguably the most crucial phase of “Re Tyre”: Should the testing reveal casings have a major influence on rolling resistance yet no or at best an inexplicable correlation is found between data linked to the variables (casing manufacturer, age and type), then it would be senseless to proceed with any further scheduled stages. Such a “no-go” decision, as Schwämmlein calls it, regarding the project’s continuation could also be reached if the casing parameters have a minor influence on rolling resistance yet absolutely no correlation between the data can be detected.
It goes without saying that the parties involved hope a “go” will be given after the first phase, yet according to Dreschler a parallel project will nevertheless begin at this point – a “plan B” – in case a worst case scenario arises. However, should everything proceed according to plan the “Re Tyre” project’s next two phases will follow on immediately. In these a smaller number of market relevant tyre sizes and types will be examined with a focus on what influence paramaters arising from the retreading process (buffing radius, cushion gum, pre-/mould cure retreading etc.) plus what influence factors associated with treads (such as compound formula, Shore-hardness, tread design and tread depth and width) have.
Schwämmlein estimates that around 500 and 600 tyres will need to be “laboratory prepared” (ie with all parameters documented according to scientific standards) for the measurements taken during these three project phases. In view of the findings’ limited repeatability, one retreader, Reifen Ihle, was asked to produce all test samples – not least because the German company can perform both mould and pre-cure retreading under the one roof. The fourth and final phase of “Re Tyre” concludes the study with the development of a computer-aided simulation tool capable of predicting tyre qualities such as rolling resistance, wet grip and noise emissions.
Given the samples and equipment requires, it comes as no surprise that estimated costs for the whole project are some 2.5 million euros. The EU is providing funds for 72 per cent of this amount and subsidising “Re Tyre” to the tune of 1.8 million euros. The industry itself must come up with “just” the remaining 700,000 euros: 460,000 euros of this is coming from BIPAVER and national associations such as Vaco (the Netherlands), BRV (Germany), AIRP (Italy), AER (Spain) and SVP (Czech Republic), plus retreaders such as Banden Plan (the Netherlands), Bandvulc (United Kingdom), Reifen Ihle (Germany), Insa Turbo (Spain), and Carling (Czech Republic), along with tread manufacturers Kraiburg (Austria) and the testing organisation Dekra (Germany) and Idiada (Spain).
There is a simple reason why names like Michelin, Goodyear, Bridgestone, Continental and other new tyre manufacturers with their own retreading facilities don’t appear amongst this list of names: The EU only pays for projects that promote small to medium-sized enterprises and has no intention of directing its resources towards large companies. Officially, these companies play no role; nevertheless, according to Michael Schwämmlein and Hans-Jürgen Drechsler, collaboration with them is welcomed, not least for the test samples they can provide and to tap their extensive know-how.
“New tyre manufacturers have a good lobby in Brussels and elsewhere. Therefore we’ve agreed with the ETRMA (European Tyre & Rubber Manufacturers’ Association) not to create any unnecessary headwinds,” comments Drechsler, who is confident of the large manufacturers’ support in one form or another. However he expresses some disappointment that to-date Marangoni has shown relatively little interest in getting involved in Re Tyre. While he mentions working “very constructively” together with the previously-mentioned new tyre makers and of being “in the same boat” as his national organisation, the Association of the German Rubber Industry (WdK), the Italian retreading materials supplier remains the only company that has “not yet flown the right flag” on this issue. “However I am confident that this may yet change,” Drechsler adds.
According to Marangoni’s headquarters in Rovereto, Italy, this decision should not be misinterpreted. The changing legislative landscape in the area of type approval and tyre labeling for retreaded truck tyres is “clearly a very important issue,” the company says. Yet be that as it may, for the time being Marangoni intends to wait and see the effect the tyre label will have on type approval for new tyres in the coming year; through this the company expects to gain important insights into how to further proceed with truck retreads. Furthermore, responding to questioning from Tyres & Accessories, Marangoni points out that contributions to the cost of the Re Tyre project are ultimately made through the national retreading associations, such as Italy’s AIRP and its German counterpart the BRV; on top of this, the company is able to get involved as a new tyre manufacturer through the ETRMA and the ETRTO.
You may have noticed that, when calculating the costs involved, 240,000 euros remains outstanding. Responsibility for providing this sum will be apportioned according to the BIPAVER distribution list to retreaders in the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and the United Kingdom, taking into account the respective market share in each individual country (see diagram). As an example, each of the 60 or so truck tyre retreaders in Germany will provide around 1,000 euros.
The BIPAVER and BRV wish to stress that the funds for the study are at any rate well invested, especially – as Michael Schwämmlein reports – there are some EU representatives who are “not well disposed towards retreading.” Results gained from Re-Tyre can thus be used to take the wind from the sails of those critics wishing for an opportunity, should the chance arise, to simply “test to bits”
this apparently unloved sector of the industry. So what will happen should “Plan B” be needed after phase one? BRV managing director Hans-Jürgen Drechsler is certain that, should the worst come to the worst, a timely and suitable remedy will be available, a convincing positive line of argument that can secure the survivability of medium-sized retreaders.
At any rate, Drechsler cannot conceive that Brussels would seriously want to cut the ground from under the feet of a sector that benefits the environment in a practical way: It is a well-known fact that producing a retreaded tyre requires fewer resources (raw materials and energy) than the production of a new tyre. It is still less conceivable as retreads hold a 50 per cent share of the European commercial vehicle replacement tyre sector and sufficient production capacity to meet this demand is unimaginable without the medium-sized retreaders. “Nobody wants a policy that proceeds to wreck retreading,” Drechsler believes. In the end, the fundamental message is: One way or another truck tyre retreading will – regardless of type approval/tyre labeling or the Re Tyre study results – survive and continue. This is good news, and as the adage says, there’s life in the old dog yet.
Yet at the same time a bitter aftertaste remains from jumping through so many hoops just to take the lawmakers’ regulatory requirements into account. Hopefully every link in the entire supply chain will make the necessary additional effort to maintain a balanced view of the benefits that the EU envisions will result from the changes: a reduction in the (from traffic generated) carbon dioxide emissions that are believed a contributory factor in climate change. Irrespective of this, the Re-Tyre project may serve as evidence that retreaded tyres are in no way inferior – in this sense another reason why the sector should await the study’s results with baited breath.