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Amid Labor Shortage, Training & Diversity Stressed at OTR Conference 

2022 OTR Conference OTR tire safety

Members of the OTR tire industry gathered in Destin, Florida this week for the Tire Industry Association’s 67th OTR Conference from Feb. 23-26 to gain a deeper understanding of the trends in the OTR tire market today and what to expect in the future. One of those trends that permeated the sessions was the labor shortage and the need for training, recruitment and retention of talent. 

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“We run lean,” said Mason Hess, current TIA president and area manager for Purcell Tire and Service Center in Phoenix, Ariz., about the tire business today. “In a market where there are employment shortages, some tire dealers are forced to choose between taking care of the customer or taking care of the employee. Don’t let this shortcut your safety training.”

During the conference, various speakers presented on topics including OTR tire safety, end-of-life OTR tires, women in the industry, technology and employment trends. 

FULL COVERAGE: 2022 OTR Conference

During a session about the best practices for jacking and cribbing, Roy Galyer, global training manager for Klinge Tyre Management, shared a story that highlighted the need for proper training. Galyer said in December 2020, an OTR tire technician with 46 years of experience was killed while mounting a tire onto a 992 loader by not following today’s standard safety procedures. 

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“I’ve been changing tires for 40 years and what was acceptable then is a far cry from how we expect someone to do the job in the OTR industry today,” Galyer said. For instance, he highlighted aspects of TIA’s basic earthmover training which emphasize the importance of performing a risk assessment and workplace exam when tire technicians arrive on a job site.

“If a hazard is found, we have to mediate the hazard and document the mediation,” he said. “We can’t become complacent. We pay the ultimate price by doing it wrong.” 

Galyer and TIA Director of Tire Service Matt White said that in many OTR positions, training is passed down from generation to generation, which doesn’t help solidify standard operating procedures and ensure a safe work environment. In addition to this, OTR tire dealers are often “backed into a corner” at times with balancing proper training for employees while also trying to get the job done timely and keeping the customer happy. “If you have an employee out in the field, they have to know how to perform these jobs safely,” Galyer reiterated. 

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In terms of training, Galyer and White stressed that OTR tire dealers invest in earthmover tire training and certifications. On the employer’s side, they emphasized giving technicians the power to stand up and let customers know of job site hazards and anything that might compromise their safety. 

“We have a responsibility,” Galyer said, “that when our OTR techs step out onto that job site, with a high number of hazards, the technician must be empowered to say it [your equipment] will be ready when it’s ready.”

To demonstrate the value of doing a job the right way, Galyer, White, Mark Shimko, safety trainer for McCarthy Tire Service, and Jeff Faubion, TIA/MHSA compliance specialist for Bridgestone Americas, used the power of technology to video call technicians they’ve trained or work with that were out in the field. The technicians showed conference attendees how to properly assess a job site and set up for an OTR tire replacement as well as the value each technician has gained from training. 

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For example, White contacted Logan Ray, a 300-level TIA-certified OTR tire technician with Best-One Tire & Service, who demonstrated safety protocols including lock-out, tag-out and jacking and cribbing. 

Hess, who is often out on copper mine sites in Arizona with Purcell Tire, said thanks to training and certifications, the tire industry has experienced a culture shift. About 20-30 years ago, speed was valued more than safety in getting a job done. Now, it’s the opposite.

“No doubt our culture has changed around safety, and our industry is better for it.” 

TIA President Mason Hess addresses the crowd at the 2022 OTR Conference.

Giving Women in OTR Tools to Succeed

Another session at the OTR conference addressed women in the OTR tire industry and how businesses can attract more females to their companies, and in turn, addresses some labor concerns. Moderated by Deborah Bjorklund, executive vice president of 31 Inc., each of the ladies on the panel was asked about their experience in the industry and why they stayed, with many pointing to great mentors and the proper tools as to why they’ve made a career in the OTR tire industry. 

Carly Shipley, OE key account manager for commercial specialty tires at Continental, said her upon graduation from college, she was recruited by Continental and knew friends that worked for the company, but stayed thanks to supportive colleagues. 

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“I knew I worked for a supportive company that understood my needs, which made me stay,” she said. “I had a mentor early on who every day would check in with me and ask ‘What do you need to be successful today?’”

Donzeleigh McCord, a 35-year industry veteran who currently serves as BKT’s manager of customer service, said she looked for stable employment yet money was a large factor in her longevity in the industry. Brandy Sielaff, director of human resources for Commercial Tire, Inc. based out of Idaho, said that in addressing the industry’s labor shortage, the OTR tire industry shouldn’t be afraid to advertise that it provides well-paying jobs. 

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“We don’t sell our industry very well,” Sielaff said. “And how often do we go out and sell? One takeaway from this needs to be how can we sell what we do better?”

Deborah Bjorklund, panel moderator and executive vice president of 31 Inc., kicks off the Women in Industry panel with panelists (from left) Brandy Sielaff, director of human resources for Commercial Tire Inc., Donzaleigh McCord, manager of customer service for BKT Tires, Grace Guedet, category procurement, tires and rims, for Caterpillar, and Carly Shipley, OE key account manager for Continental Tire the Americas.

She also encouraged those in the industry to make connections with others outside the industry that have the soft skills their companies might want for a certain position. 

McCord said if a company is looking to recruit more women into its workforce, they need to advertise women doing jobs in the OTR field. She added that adding diversity to the workforce–both in gender and race–can happen automatically if you find the right people. 

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“You have to attract the right people and then create an environment for them to succeed,” she said.

Bjorklund encouraged those in the industry to go find the talent they want, saying, “Females won’t come in and flip a tire, but if you ask them to, they just might.” She added that gradually adding more diversity in companies in the OTR tire industry will contribute to change for years to come. 

“If you take a chance on someone like me, some of the ladies out there, you could change their future and you could change our industry,” she added.

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