Retread radio: TRIB takes its message directly to truckers
It’s 7:30, Pacific time, on a Wednesday morning. Harvey Brodsky, managing director of the Tire Retread Information Bureau (TRIB), is not only in his office -- he’s on the radio.
Nearly every week for the past two years, Brodsky has been a regular guest on “Open Road Café,” a show on Sirius Satellite Radio channel 138 that’s dedicated to over-the-road truckers. Brodsky -- who calls into “Open Road Café” host Mark Willis from TRIB headquarters in Pacific Palisades, Calif. -- promotes retreads and the importance of tire maintenance. He also answers questions, provides advice, and even offers to mail out air pressure gauges.
Brodsky estimates that TRIB’s message has reached more than 10,000 truckers thanks to the program, which is broadcast throughout the United States and Canada. “This is the single most important thing that has ever happened positively to the retread industry.”
Brodsky was approached by ABC, which owns the show, in August 2002. “They asked if I’d like to do a guest spot on satellite radio. I thought I’d be on one time for five minutes.” ABC liked what it heard and invited him to phone in on a regular basis.
“Open Road Café” is slotted for 30 minutes; Brodsky is now on the air for 24 of those. “The show is live and there’s no delay.” Truckers often call in -- sometimes to complain about tires and retreads that are manufactured by TRIB members.
“I tell them, ‘I promise you, you’re problem will get fixed. I give them my phone number and they call me” off the air. Brodsky then takes their case to the tire or retread company in question for resolution. “We once had a guy -- not only did Bandag Inc. solve his problem, they even sent him a box of steaks!
“Sometimes you get somebody who really badmouths retreads. The first question I ask is, ‘When’s the last time you used retreads?’” Some haven’t used them in years or even decades, he says. “I tell them that everything has changed, the technology is sensational, and retreads have an adjustment rate that’s as low or lower than any new tire.”
If the caller is still unconvinced, Brodsky encourages him to take a retread plant tour, which he also sets up. “I then say, ‘If you’re not happy, I want you to call me and (TRIB) will write a check to take you and your wife or girlfriend to dinner -- I don’t care how much it costs.
“We’ve never had anyone take us up on the (dinner) offer, but we’ve had truckers ask us to arrange plant tours for them.”
Ever the go-getter, Brodsky enlists tire and retread company executives to appear on “Open Road Café” when he can’t due to other commitments. Officials from Bandag, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co., Bridgestone Firestone North American Tire LLC (BFNT), Michelin North America Inc. and Marangoni Tread North America Inc. have filled in for him, in addition to representatives from the Tech International and the Tire Industry Association. Even retreader Terry Westhafer, president of Verona, Va.-based Central Tire Corp., once co-hosted an episode. “It keeps the show fresh.”
TRIB distributes an average of 115 pressure gauges a week through the program. (All of them are subsidized by BFNT.) During one week this past October, more than 160 gauges were mailed out. TRIB also sends copies of its Buyers’ Guide to truckers and encourages them to keep the publication in their cabs.
Brodsky expanded TRIB’s radio presence earlier this year by appearing on another ABC-owned show, “The Midnight Trucking Radio Network,” which is syndicated throughout the United States on the AM dial. The program “is a major, major show,” he says.
Response to “Midnight Trucking Radio Network” also has been tremendous. “I’m having truckers call me and say, ‘I haven’t used retreads since 1988 and you’ve finally convinced me.’” TRIB is currently compiling a CD of those calls to give to its members. “It’s been unbelievable,” he says. “We’re knocking ‘em dead.”