In 2015, the giant OTR tire segment experienced low demand in north America and globally. Several tire manufacturers reported a flat 2015 and expect the market to remain much the same in the coming year.
“The North American mining tire market has been impacted by the ongoing slowdown in global mining operations. Production has been soft since 2013, and customers in all minerals saw lower-than-normal operating levels through 2015,” says Taylor Cole, president of OTR at Bridgestone Americas. “The OTR marketplace remained mostly flat in 2015 and is expected to be similar in 2016.”
Johni Francis, global OTR product manager at Titan International, agrees.
“If you look across the board, even our competitors, everyone had a slow year,” he says. “That’s something we expect to see the same in 2016, it’s pretty much going to stay flat.”
Tim Easter, director of OTR sales at Yokohama Tire Corp., notes the giant OTR tire segment is very dependent on the price of commodities. Because of this, the giant OTR market may even have been down in 2015.
“When you talk about the giant OTR market, you’re pretty much talking about the mining industry and the mining industry is driven by whatever commodity is being mined. Whether it’s gold, copper, coal, the price of that is what drives them to mine more or mine less,” shares Easter. “When you start reaching a point where it costs you more to mine it than it’s bringing on the market, it makes the market very soft. That’s where we are right now.”
“The overall OTR market was up a little bit in 2015, but giant tires were probably flat if not down in 2015,” he continues. “Looking at 2016 I would say the giant OTR market will be the same as 2015, if not less.”
While things look slow for 2016, due to the cyclical nature of the OTR industry, tire manufacturers expect giant OTR tire demand to pick up in the future.
“The mining segment is cyclical. We are optimistic about the future of this market and expect demand for off-road tires to increase steadily as the need for mineral resources grows with a measured economic expansion across the globe,” says Bridgestone’s Cole.
Titan’s Francis predicts the same. “If you look back throughout the years, 15 to 20 years back in the industry, it’s very cyclical. You go through a cycle where you’re in a downturn, then you start to see it come up.”
Tiremakers, however, aren’t sure exactly when the uptick may come.
Francis notes that while prices are down, mines tend to run less equipment and use their idle equipment for spare parts and tires.
“What they start doing when they park half their equipment is they end up utilizing idle equipment, not just tires but parts, as replacements,” he says. “Once that commodity price starts to increase they start increasing production. Therefore, the aftermarket sales of giant tires start to pick up also because they need to replenish what they’ve already used. That generally takes 2 to 3 years to cycle.”
While commodity prices have been affecting some mining segments, government regulations have also had a negative impact on the giant OTR industry.
Yokohama’s Easter notes that “coal is almost extinct,” because of the rules and regulations that have been set by the EPA and the Clean Air Act.
Advances in Technology
There are not many dramatic changes in technology taking place in the giant OTR tire segment.
The giant OTR tire market is still made up of both bias and radial tires. This is a trend expected to continue, according to the tiremakers.
“We have seen a general decline in the overall general use bias market as choices for radials increases and supply shortages have been reduced, but in many cases bias tires still have performance properties that customers in certain applications and certain machines prefer,” says Bridgestone’s Cole. “For instance, many of our giant loader tire customers continue to prefer bias tires because of the performance characteristics they need on large loaders.”
“Tread design and compounding based on the application is where you see most of the technology in OTR,” Yokohama’s Easter shares.
While the overall giant OTR market isn’t making big changes, Titan is hoping to change the giant OTR market with its low sidewall technology (LSW). Titan is using LSW technology on its Goodyear-branded ag and forestry tires, as well as its small OTR tires.
Francis notes the Titan is just intro- ducing its LSW to the giant OTR market. The company is currently testing LSW for use on loaders, but plans to offer the tires eventually for every application in giant OTR, Francis shares.
LSW helps with machine stability and ride, according to Francis.
“What we’ve done, utilizing that low sidewall on that loader application, is eliminated a lot of sway, the left to right movement and stiffened up that tire,” he says. “And you still have radial characteristics. You can still put the speed and distance on the machine as you would a radial, but would have the stability of a bias ply tire.”
The LSW tires won’t be available for sale from Titan until the third quarter of this year.
Other technology advancements having an impact on the giant OTR sector are the use of TPMS and GPS.
“The most important thing you can do for an OTR tire is maintain the air pressure and haul the proper loads, based on your compound and tire the haul distances. TPMS and GPS systems help the end user do that,” says Yokohama’s Easter.
TPMS and onboard systems used at the mining sites can help maintain the life of tires on all vehicles in a mine’s fleet. The systems can also help eliminate downtime.
“Tire pressure monitoring can be an effective tool to help maintain proper air pressure. These tools used effectively with a full service maintenance plan can be critical to keeping the proper pressures in your fleet and keeping tire costs down on your equipment,” Bridgestone’s Cole says.
“What you’re able to do is track the pressure and temperatures on every position on every machine that you have running. You’re able to identify an issue right away in real time, and call dispatch to get down to the truck and see what the problem is,” adds Titan’s Francis. “From a productivity standpoint that eliminates a lot of downtime.”
GPS systems can also help mines improve tire performance by allowing tire dealers and manufacturers to find the right tires for the application.
“The GPS will actually chart the route that they haul. It can calculate everything from the distance to the speed to the grades that they’re hauling,” Easter shares. “We have a box, called a Z-box study, and we put it in the truck and the truck will operate for so many hours. We take it back out and download that information to a computer and calculate what’s the best tire for that application.”
Tire dealers can conduct their own Z-box studies, or they can work with manufacturers to collect the data.
“The giant tire OTR space is highly specialized and what works well for one customer may not work as well for another,” Bridgestone’s Cole shares. “It is critical that mining customers in all regions work closely with their local dealer and manufacturer’s rep to assess the current site conditions and chose the right tire for that specific site. It’s also important to note that conditions change over time and tire selections should be under a consistent pattern or review to ensure selections are optimal for the prevailing operating conditions.”
Meeting Customers’ Needs
The end-users of giant OTR tires expect high-quality, durable tires that can deliver solid performance at an often demanding mining site. How each end user measures a tire’s durability, however, differs.
“When it comes to finding what their expectations are, it’s all mine specific,” shares Titan’s Francis. “Some expect 2,000 hours, some expect 4,000 hours and some expect 6,000 hours. They want all their tire manufacturers to hit that benchmark. If the tire can’t, they look at cost. If a tire is only achieving 2,000 hours, the cost has to go down and translate to what they’re getting out of it.”
To help customers get the most out of their tires, tire dealers must work closely with their clients. Easter also advises dealers to develop a solid relationship with whatever manufacturer their using and take advantage of their expertise.
“Dealers need to provide an exceptional level of service – this means having the right equipment for the job, capable people that are experts and are experienced in the mining industry, and have an exemplary record of safety performance,” shares Bridgestone’s Cole. “It also means working on site to track the performance of tire the operation and continuing to find ways to lower the customer’s total cost of production.”
Another thing tire dealers should be doing for clients is tracking the cradle to grave life of a giant OTR tire for their customer. This helps dealers meet customer expectations as well as adjust programs as needed.
“Tire management and reporting solutions delivers the information that can better help customers make informed decisions,” Cole says.
Tiremakers also offer different tracking systems to find out cradle to grave costs. Bridgestone offers TreadStat, and Yokohama offers its customers Y-Trac.
“The current state of the mining industry is extremely challenging due to low commodity prices driven by a number of factors. This presents an opportunity to show the end users the value of an experienced and integrated dealer/manufacturer network and how we can collectively provide useful insights to help lower total operating costs,” Cole shares.