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Associated Press, Published March 17 2013

Billings tire re-treaders boom with Bakken oil

BILLINGS, Mont. — Business is on a roll for tire re-treaders keeping big trucks operating on the rough gravel roads in the Bakken oil boom region of eastern Montana and western North Dakota.

Hi-Mile Tire Manager Al Rees tells the Billings Gazette the company ships about 250 tires a week to oil fields in the summer and fall peak months.

“All things considered, the years 2010, 2011 and 2012, those three years have been the busiest for us,” said Rees, who has been in eastern Montana servicing and selling tires for 30 years.

Rees said new tires cost about $600 apiece, while re-treads run about $200. On king-sized trucks pulling four-axle trailers and needing 36 tires, using re-treads can lead to a savings of about $14,000, he said.

Experts say trucks hauling water or oil can re-tread tires about three times, while trucks hauling lighter loads on smoother roads can do five re-treads.

Hi-Mile workers search tires for tread separations, nail holes and damaged tread. The old tread is ground off and holes are plugged. After repairs, new tread is attached and the tire is baked under pressure for more than four hours to get it road ready.

Tire Rama's Interstate Manufacturing is the largest re-tread operator in Billings, producing about 150 tires a day. Manager Dave King said the Bakken is helping some but most of the work is for local trucking fleets.

“You're reusing that tire, rather than sending it to the landfill,” he said.

Rees is cautious about the current boom from the Bakken oil fields, recalling an oil boom that went bust three decades ago when he was servicing tires in his hometown of Sidney.

“It's really hard to put out of your mind,” he said. “Trailer houses, pickups, motorcycles — all the toys — everything went back to the bank and you couldn't give stuff away, much less sell it.”