Chemists cook up durable new tire at Cooper

By Jami Jones, Land Line managing editor | 3/28/2017

When you think about tires for your truck, the last thing that likely comes to mind is a team of chemists. But that’s where the innovation of new truck tires starts at Cooper Tire and Rubber Co.

Cooper launched its Roadmaster line of tires in 2007, according to Gary Schroeder, director of global truck and bus tires for Cooper Tires.

“It was a slow start,” he said. “But after three or four years it took off like a rocket. Owner-operators brought this brand to the dance.”

While owner-operators may be responsible for the growth in sales, Schroeder credits Cooper’s approach to tire manufacturing for its quality reputation.

“Tires are highly engineered,” he said. “It’s a constant balancing act when you’re looking to improve one thing like rolling resistance.”

The emergence of the Environmental Protection Agency and the SmartWay program put pressure on tire makers to find ways to design tires to use less fuel. Thus the evolution of low-rolling-resistance tires.

Schroeder says that the ultimate goal is to find a low-rolling-resistance tire that doesn’t rob life from the tire.

“The real challenge,” he said, “is to break that paradigm.”

Enter a team of “Ph.D.s and chemists” who work on a daily basis at the Cooper labs concocting new tire compounds every day.

Every day new hurdles are thrown at them. Take adjustments in road compounds. Notoriously slippery roads in Florida have ground-up oyster shells to help with traction. That, in turn, is harder on the tires.

“It’s like running across 40 grit sandpaper,” Schroeder said.

With all of the challenges and innovation, development of the newest addition to the Roadmaster lineup started back in 2012. The testing process alone took four years, Schroeder said. All of that testing and tweaking paid off.

Cooper unveiled its Roadmaster RM852(EM) long-haul drive tire, which is SmartWay verified at the Mid-America Trucking Show. The new line has a 30/32 tread depth that will deliver 300,000 to 350,000 miles of service life.

The combination of fuel-efficiency and long life breaks the paradigm that Shroeder talked about.

“This is not a low-tech product,” Schroeder said.

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