Several manufacturers of off-the-road tires shared their company’s plans for 2019 as well as where they see the OTR market headed at the Tire Industry Association’s 2019 OTR Conference at the Saddlebrook Resort outside Tampa, Florida.
Representatives from OTR tire companies took part in a Tire Manufacturers’ Panel, where they teased new products coming from their companies in 2019 and shared what new initiatives their companies had for the upcoming year.
See what those experts on the panel had to say about the outlook for the OTR market and what to expect from their companies.
Bruce Besancon, Yokohama Tire Corp.’s senior director of OTR sales
“When we look at the OTR industry… we’re seeing varied market conditions as we go across the country. Some areas of the areas of the country are doing exceedingly well, whereas some others are kind of in a bit of a dip,” Besancon said.
He said Yokohama sees an increase in the housing market in the southeast and northwest U.S. with a trend of people moving out of higher cost areas and spreading out into surrounding lower-cost areas.
In the mining industry, Besancon said Yokohama has seen a resurgence in the Appalachian areas due to coal and out west with the metals market. He painted a picture for a robust mining market in the future, particularity for those who are partners with their tire dealer in the maintenance of mining equipment.
“Generally, I would say we’re on an upward trend in the U.S. market,” he said. “We’re probably in the 5% increase range in terms of the market itself.”
He said to better fulfill customers’ needs, Yokohama is looking to areas where infrastructure is being built to see what types of equipment and tires their dealers are servicing. To better serve its dealers, the company has expanded its field staff and expanded its product line, most recently launching a radial tire line for scrapers and filling out its mining portfolio.
Doug Kershaw, vice president of BKT USA
In the last year, BKT USA has seen high double-digit growth in its OTR segment, said Kershaw, calling last year a “record-breaking year” for the company. To better improve their customer experience, BKT has expanded its sales staff and hired a complete field technical support team to serve its customers pre-sale and post-sale to better meet their needs.
Already this year, Kershaw said BKT saw record-breaking sales in January 2019 in the construction tire market, which led them to add more salespeople and set up a new office for customer service outside Nashville, Tennessee. To complement the company’s warehouses in the east and west, BKT will be building a warehouse in the Midwest to improve tire availability for their dealers and increase delivery times. Kershaw said that the warehouse is expected to come on board in the next couple of months.
“What that’s going to do is it’s not only going to cut down our delivery time, but it’s hopefully going to cut down our distribution costs because the trucking right now, as we all know, is becoming worse and worse,” Kershaw said referring to high trucking and transportation costs across the industry.
BKT is also planning to expand its OTR plant in Bhuj, India, Kershaw said, in order to produce 29 in. and higher tires to fulfill customer needs. Last year, BKT produced more than 15 different SKUs and plans to release new products this year, including a 57-in. tire. The company is also in the process of building a carbon black plant on the site of its plant in Bhuj.
“With raw materials, there’s always a concern about cost and control, so BKT has invested, and we’re building a $23 million carbon black plant in Bhuj right next to our current coal plant that’s powering the entire compound. That is going to be up and running by Mar. 31. We’re very happy to say that we are going to be able to control our costs and control our quality.”
Kershaw said the oil residue from the carbon black plant would eventually be burned and used to provide power for the entire compound, which will be more environmentally friendly.
He said some challenges facing the industry include a labor shortage and high labor costs as well as a truck driver shortage.
Ray McElroy, pneumatic segment manager for Trelleborg Wheel Systems
Trelleborg Wheel Systems, described by McElroy as a new player in the U.S. OTR market, recently acquired GCS Holdings, which produces the Mitas brand in Europe and other areas of the world, McElroy said. As part of the merger, Trelleborg revamped its radial OTR line, and in 2018, it introduced its EMR (earthmover radial) OTR series for equipment in quarries, pits and mines.
Trelleborg has plans to increase production of its radial OTR line by adding two to three new compounds dedicated to long-haul and tough mining applications and double its current product sizing and patterns. The company also plans to introduce a new port tire line in both radial and bias ply, and it will continue the production of its bias ply line of products, which includes skid-steer, MPT and excavation tires, that will be produced under the Mitas name, McElroy said. The company will also increase production and capacity in its European plants, its Mitas plant in Iowa and its Trelleborg plant in Spartanburg, South Carolina.
Globally, McElroy said Trelleborg will continue to increase its OE fitments and expand its warehouse locations across the U.S., which already include Dallas, Houston, Atlanta and Toronto, Canada.
Jimmy McDonnell, vice president of sales and marketing, Maxam Tire North America
Also a relatively new player in the North American market, Maxam Tire North America came to market with 168 new products in 2018. In 2019, McDonnell said the company is planning to release over 300 products.
“What we’re doing is expanding our existing radial OTR offering – additional sizes, additional treads – and [we’ll be] going into some bias OTR. We launched that this year. [We’re also getting into] radial ag – R1W’s, that’s the first phase. We’re actually going to have four phases to have complete coverage of the ag market.”
McDonnell also said Maxam recently received approval to manufacture its line of forestry tires, and in 2019, he said the company’s 65 series will bring a “big opportunity” for the company. He said recently, Maxam also launched a new online dealer portal, where dealers can purchase tires.
While Maxam has also experienced challenges in transportation and trucking, McDonnell said it is also experiencing supply issues with demand outpacing capacity in the 29-in., 33-in. and 35-in. rim seat sizes as well as giant OTR tires.
Shawn Rasey, director of global business development, commercial specialty tires – earthmover, Continental Tire
After high highs and low lows, Continental’s Rasey said he sees the U.S. construction market as more steady and sustainable. He said if an infrastructure bill passes through Congress, it would give the industry a boost even further.
Since August 2016, Continental has also been an aggressive path of growth with now more than 100 products in the market. But while its product portfolio has become diverse, “it doesn’t seem like that list of items is getting smaller,” Rasey said, referring to more specialized products that are in demand.
Continental also completed a $50 million expansion project at its OTR tire plant in Portugal, which will increase capacity this year. Rasey also said customers should expect to see some improvements in the manufacturer’s radial product offering and specialty tire offering this year.
One of the challenges Rasey has seen in the market is the adoption of new technology from dealers.
“One of the biggest challenges for our dealers is wrapping their heads around this whole technology revolution of what’s going on and what’s coming and what’s happening with it and managing it,” Rasey said. “A very diverse portfolio of products are available, and we try to help you do it [manage it]. From our perspective, technology is going to change everything. In fact, technology has changed everything and sort of continuous movement at a rapid pace. So, I think that’s one of the things that maybe we as manufacturers need to take some leadership in trying to work with you, our dealer base, and help support your own strategies about how to embrace some of those changes and how to leverage them to move towards some service differentiation on your side to stand above the crowd.”
This story will be updated.