By Sigmund J. Mikolajczyk, Tire Business staff
Millstone Township, New Jersey -- They often labour, these hulking behemoths, in a hazard-encrusted, nasty environment…and the nastier the better as far as Advance Tire Inc.'s Jerry Bruner is concerned.
That gleaming hunk of metal in a steel recycling yard waiting to attach itself to a passing OTR tire can mean its untimely death. Ditto for heavy equipment toiling in the unfriendly environs of a waste and recycling operation, the demolition industry or glass recycling yard. You can almost see chuckling tire gremlins high-fiving each other when another expensive-to-purchase, costly-to-operate piece of machinery goes down for the count with a gash in a tire sidewall or chunk from its tread. Or a plain ol' flat.
For 42-year-old Mr. Bruner, Advance Tire's sales manager, those scenarios help reaffirm in the mind of a customer just the type of products and services the dealership pushes to keep those tyre gremlins at bay.
In a conversation with Tire Business, he said about 15 years ago the dealership got into the solid tire business-what he likes to call a "niche market within a niche market"-when it saw the need for severe-duty tire applications for operators of heavy equipment.
Founded in 1987 by Bruner's dad, Jerry Bruner-the staff of 18 differentiates them by "senior" and "junior"-the specialty tyre marketer's bread-and-butter products are a foam-filling service and cushion solid tires. Those can range from skidsteer, backhoe, forklift and haul truck, all the way up to the large OTR breed that often earn their hazard pay in tire-eating environments. The company also handles pneumatic versions of those lines.
"What makes us different than many tyre companies," he noted, "is we don't have a car or truck tyre in the building. We have no service trucks. We don't handle the retail side at all. We started the business doing OTR tyres and primarily wholesaling industrial tires, including forklift, farm, tubes, and doing urethane foam filling."
Takes a licking
Advance promotes and markets some of its yires as generic "cushion solids." Because it's a somewhat new segment, according to Bruner, "a lot of customers don't ask for a particular brand name since there are so few companies that specialize in these types of tyres and not many companies buying them."
Solid tyres basically are indestructible, and that's the key selling point to potential customers, Mr. Bruner said. And the cushion solids give "the end-user, like a scrap yard, a solid tyre with a softer ride that can run around, run over anything-like a hunk of rebar-and never go flat or get ruined.
"You can ruin a foam-filled tyre but a solid tyre is 100-percent flat-proof. They cannot be destroyed."
The dealership was doing a lot of foam filling for these operations' tires, but that didn't seem to be the best solution-until the solids came along, "giving customers a decent ride for their equipment, and they lasted a lot longer. So we jumped on the bandwagon right away, about 15 years ago," Bruner said.
"My primary sellers are the OTR press-on solid tyres and the skidsteer solids," he continued. "The holes you see in the sidewalls give the solid tyre a soft ride."
Foam filling fun
For the first 10 or so years of the company's existence, its primary push was in its foam filling service-and recycling that foam-and that has continued. "We process about 6 million pounds of foam-filled tyres each year," Bruner said. "We average better than an 80-percent recycling rate for the old tyre fill. That means we keep at least 4 million pounds of tyre fill out of the landfills every year.
"We have had our recycling program in place for over 20 years-long before the fill companies came up with their own programs."
Advance Tire's pick-up and delivery service covers an eight-state area, sending out trucks twice a week to procure customers' tyres for filling. One popular selling point is the availability of a deep inventory "so instead of a dealer waiting for tires to be shipped from overseas, we have what they need," Bruner said. Another is the company's rim exchange program. "We can ship tyres on rims to the end-user to hang on their equipment, eliminating down time.
"Our primary customer base for tyre fill is other tyre companies. Ones with and without their own tyre fill pumps," he said, adding that he believes Advance "pumps more urethane foam fill into tyres than any other tyre dealer in the US"
The company uses TyrFil polyurethane tyre fill and AutoFil Recycling Systems from Chattanooga, Tennessee-based tyre sealants maker Pathway Polymers Inc.
Advance also refurbishes rims and keeps primary rim stock for most popular machines such as John Deere, Volvo and Caterpillar. "If I can exchange a rim and send the customer's old rims back…and ship them something ready to bolt on, it cuts down on the back-and-forth time. Most companies don't stock spare rims and equipment," Bruner said.
"It's another way to…make it easier for our customers."
He added that Advance tries to give other tyre companies-"many of them larger than us"-better and cheaper service than they could provide to themselves when it comes to foam filling. "If they're doing four or five tyres a week, it's almost not worth it to start their foam-filling equipment. We can pick up their tyres and get them back in a couple days, and they never get their hands dirty.
"And (foam filling) is a messy, stinky, nasty process."
The dealership can do the job "for the same cost as what they'd pay for just the raw materials, and without the overhead costs," he said. "It has enabled us to set up a unique service. We can come in and offer a reliable service at a competitive price; they don't have to dedicate manpower to it and can then specialise in other things."
For more on this story, visit Tire Business, a Crain publication