Change is good, and sometimes a lot of change is better. That seemed to be the main theme of this year’s OTR Tire Conference presented by TIA.
Returning stateside after last year’s meeting in Puerto Rico, the event featured a sharp new logo, a revamped schedule, some new sessions, three subject-specific breakout sessions and more inclusive leisure activities to attract non-golfers.
The sense of change was good for attendance, certainly, with the 59th annual meeting attracting a record 580 attendees from 35 states and 18 countries, a delegate count that was up 20% from last year.
“The general session programs were standing room only and the three leisure programs, which included a golf tournament, a water adventure and a fishing tournament, all sold out. Plus, we had a total of 68 sponsors, the most in conference history. The increase in delegates made for incredible networking opportunities that you can’t find anywhere else in the OTR segment of the industry,” said TIA executive vice president Roy Littlefield.
The first order of business was to announce the site for the 60th annual OTR Tire Conference, which will be hosted Feb. 18-21, 2015, at the Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa in Tucson, location of the 2010 conference. As there is no ocean or even a large lake nearby, the golf tourney will be supplemented by a sporting clay tournament.
The conference kicked off with a late afternoon general session featuring a welcome by TIA President Ken Brown, a legislative update by Littlefield, the first daily safety tip by Klinge & Co. president Tom Klinge, and a presentation on the evolution of OTR tire recycling by former TIA president and national accounts president for Liberty Tire Recycling Dick Gust.
That evening’s networking cocktail party featured 60 tabletop displays from more than 60 manufacturers and suppliers.
The first full day of the conference was highlighted by a look at current and future OTR market trends by Tim Easter, director of OTR sales for Yokohama Tire Corp. Easter showed a slide listing 24 popular OTR replacement sizes, six of which – 24-inch bias and radial, 25-inch bias and radial, 49-inch radial and larger than 59-inch radial – cover 80.42% of all replacement units sold during 2013. With 65% of those units being radial and 34% bias, “about 25% of the OTR wheel size categories classified and tracked represent about 80% of all OTR units sold in America.”
[You can read all of Easter’s presentation here.]
While Easter expects the radial share of the U.S. OTR market to remain fairly flat through 2017, radialization of the market has reached 69%, he said. “Overall, total OTR growth in the U.S. is expected to be marginal this year at 4.3% and then decline to around 1.5% in 2017. Radial OTR growth in the U.S. is expected to be about 5.6% this year and then decline over the next three years to approximately 1.6% in 2017.”
The tiremaker panel this year in cluded Rajiv Poddar, executive director of BKT Tires; Barry Rexroad, Bridgestone Americas’ director of planning and strategic accounts; Aaron Murphy, vice president of CMA; Tomas Bennett, OTR infrastructure sales director for Michelin North America; and Mike Baggett, national OTR sales manager for Yokohama Tire Corp.
The panel tackled a number of pre-selected questions and some inquiries from the audience, discussing new tires and sizes coming this year, plans for capacity additions, emerging market opportunities, and their views on the potential benefits of a national OTR tire service tech certification program.
New this year was a panel presentation by representatives of the major tire re- pair material suppliers: Wayne Jackson of International Tire Repair Solutions; Gary Tatum of Patch Rubber Co.; Jeff Young of Rema Tip Top; and Ron Reiring of Tech International. Moderated by Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of training, the panel gave an information-packed session covering repair limits, comprehensive injury investigation, identification of structural injuries, and improving shop productivity by broadening training.
Full Slate Day Two
Kicking off the second full day of sessions, Wade Gatlin, Bridgestone’s vice president of mining tires, discussed how the economy and other shifts have impacted the value chain for OTR tire customers, particularly in mining and construction segments.
[You can read all of Gatlin’s presentation here.]
Added to the slate this year was a panel discussion on TPMS systems for OTR applications. Moderated by TIA director of tire service Matt White, on the panel were Phillip Zaroor of Advantage Pressure Pro; Grok Gates of Bridgestone Americas; Lee Demis of Doran Manufacturing; and Ross Edan of Schrader International.
Edd Burleson, president of Central Marketing Inc., then gave a brief talk about equipment trends in OTR retreading. He was followed by an eye-opening presentation about jacking and equipment lifting safety issues by Keith Jarman, president of AME International.
Highlighting the three-day event was a funny yet poignant speech by Jim Morris, whose life-changing trek from high school baseball coach to a major league pitching career was documented in the popular movie “The Rookie.” Morris used numerous vignettes from his life – from childhood through his debut with the Tampa Bay Devil Rays – to illustrate how we all face “dream killers” and need inspiration from “dream makers.”
That afternoon, TIA put on three back-to-back-to-back breakout seminars for attendees. Edd Burleson came back to talk about the use of shearography in OTR tire retreading; Mike Fullen of ArncoPathway talked about flatproofing technology; and George Papazotos of AirBoss Rubber Compounding, gave a thorough look at optimizing OTR tire service life.