Steepleton Tire Boosted Retread Output Despite Tough 2022

Feb. 13, 2023

Last year wasn’t easy for many medium truck tire retreaders. Tread rubber shortages forced some operators – including Memphis, Tenn.-based Steepleton Tire – to scramble for product.  

Meanwhile, orders continued to roll in, says Chris Steepleton, who manages Steepleton Tire’s six-chamber retread plant. 

The combination of increased demand and short supply “put a lot of stress on everyone,” notes the energetic 29-year-old, whose great-grandfather, A.E. Steepleton, founded the dealership in 1945. 

But Steepleton Tire found a way “to make everything work,” keep customers happy and even achieve a 4% production increase.  

Casing management 

The Steepleton Tire team immediately hunkered down when tread rubber shortages began to develop. 

“Up until last year, we probably spent two to four hours a week ordering rubber, checking on open orders and looking at inventory,” says Chris.  “Last year, there were times we spent four hours a day doing that.” 

Casing availability wasn’t a problem, but Chris found it necessary to monitor the condition of the company’s in-house stock more closely. 

“From May through July, every afternoon and into the night, myself, my plant manager and my lead guy would be back in our casing warehouse, pulling down stacks.  

“We all had tread gauges in our hands, measuring casings to make sure that one, we had enough tires to run a productive day the next day and two, to make sure we had enough tread rubber in the right widths. 

“And once we figured that out, we called our sales guys to let them know what we were short on and what we could substitute. And they’d have to get on the phone with their customers to make it all work. 

“We were able to secure enough tread rubber to grow our sales, but it took a lot of moving parts,” he says. “And it took a lot of communication from our suppliers to our upper management and then to our plant and salespeople and then from our salespeople to our customers. 

“There were some surprises as far as what products we were able to get and turnaround times. But as long as you were communicating and planning for those things in advance, you could win.” 

Retread use increases 

Demand from Steepleton Tire’s customers remained robust throughout 2022, according to Chris. 

The company’s retread plant produces around 130 medium truck tire retreads a day during its busy season, which typically runs from May through October. 

“Last year, it lasted all the way through November,” he says. “We were rocking and rolling.” 

Due to elevated new truck tire prices and unavailability of certain products, “we saw a lot of customers turn to retreading – out of sheer necessity. 

“They couldn’t get the tires they needed, so customers who weren’t retreading before started to retread.” 

Price hikes impacted everyone, but were not an insurmountable barrier for some customers, he adds.   

“Price-wise, I’m still surprised to see what some people will pay for a new truck tire. A lot of times, smaller fleets will prefer to run new tires all the way around – especially if they don’t have a large maintenance team.  

“But once they get to a certain size and can manage their tire program more closely, it doesn’t take long to convert to a retreading program.” 

It helps that tread rubber technology “has become increasingly sophisticated,” says Chris. “Tread rubber has gone through all stages of development – especially precure rubber.” 

Room to grow 

As the new year progresses, Steepleton Tire will continue to invest in its bustling plant. (The company has been a Bandag retreader since the 1960s.) 

“In 2023, we’ll add a new extruder machine,” says Chris, whose father, Pat Steepleton, oversees the dealership’s entire operations. 

“We’ve added an inspection terminal and a new repair station. Two years ago, we made a 7,000-square-foot addition to our casing warehouse, which came in handy over the past year – especially as casings started to pile up. We were able to keep them inside. 

“There won’t be any huge expansions” in 2023, he adds.  

“We’re not quite maxed-out on our capacity, as far as what we can run. We have a little more room before we max out. 

“Right now, for the foreseeable future, our focus will be on increasing our efficiencies across all of our departments and trying to get as much out of this location as we can.” 

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.