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The Big Hole in the Ground

They came from all over the country to discuss the industry, meet friends and look at a giant hole in the ground. But more importantly, they came in record numbers.

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The Big Hole in the Ground

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They came from all over the country to discuss the industry, meet friends and look at a giant hole in the ground. But more importantly, they came in record numbers.

To say the Tire Association of North America’s (TANA) 2000 Off-the-Road Tire Conference was a success would be a bit of an understatement.

Held at the Sheraton El Conquistador in Tucson, Ariz., the mid-February conference played host to a record 368 attendees, a 12 percent jump from last year’s event.

"This is one of the best forums for training in the tire industry," said TANA President Tom Wright. "I’m very proud of the continued success of this conference."

But there was more than just training to be had at the OTR Conference. There were seminars on the industry, talks about new technologies and how to sell services, the chance to see giant earthmoving equipment in action, and a keynote speech by Hall of Fame pitcher Jim Palmer.

The highlight of the conference came on the second day when attendees got an up close look at earthmoving equipment in action. During a demonstration at Caterpillar’s Tinaja Hills Training Center and the working Phelps Dodge Sierrita Inc. mine, conferees watched haul trucks, loaders and graders move hundreds of tons of payload with ease. After watching the machines perform, dealers were permitted a closer examination of the equipment, including the largest loaders and haul trucks available on the market today.

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The centerpiece of the visit was the Caterpillar 797, the world’s largest haul truck with a payload capacity of 360 tons. The world’s largest truck also sports the world’s largest tire, a 55/80R63 E-4.

During the conference, TANA also presented the findings of its OTR Survey. Done in conjunction with Tire Review, the survey provides a profile of the typical OTR tire dealer, offering insight into how OTR tires get to the end-user and how they are serviced.

Included in the survey findings were such facts as: OTR tires represent only 20 percent of an OTR dealer’s total unit sales; the typical OTR dealer has been in existence over 31 years; an OTR dealership averages 45 employees; and 38 percent of dealers carry three OTR brands. The study also covered sales segmentation, locations, inventories and profitability,

But numbers only tell half of the story, as the respondents were able to share their comments on the OTR business:

  • "There is not a lot of market growth in our area, so we have to service our customers better than our competition. We feel very confident we can do this."
  • "We can’t seem to recruit any younger service people."
  • "A week-long hands-on OTR session with service training would be welcome by all in the industry."

As one dealer remarked, selling service is a critical part of the OTR industry, which is why TANA provided the seminar, "How to Sell OTR Tires and Service to Mines."

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Given by Steve Holmes, the general manager of the Phelps Dodge Sierrita Inc. copper and molybdenum mine, the seminar reminded dealers that mining companies need to reduce costs in order to stay competitive.

That means improving performance through machines running at optimum efficiency, which is precisely where a dealer and his service support come in.

"We recognize we’re mining people. We’re not tire service support experts, so we depend on you folks to provide that support to us," said Holmes.

There were two major panel presentations also held during the conference. The first, "Retreading and Repairing" was moderated by Bob Purcell, president of Purcell Tire. The discussion consisted of industry experts such as Jean-Louis Lateulere of Michelin North America, Paul Rinauro of Hercules Tire & Rubber, John Garrett of Rema Tip/Top North America, Bill Johnson of Tech International, and Glenn Bennett of Goodyear Tire & Rubber.

The second panel on "Understanding Our Changing Industry" featured Goodyear’s Tom Ford, Michelin’s Clement Yong, Continental General Tire’s Jack Fenner, Yokohama’s Gary Nash, Bridgestone/Firestone’s Off-Road Tire Co.’s Manny Cicero and Toyo Tire’s Ron Gilbert. The discussion was moderated by Al Chicago, TANA’s OTR Conference chairperson.

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TANA’s 2001 OTR conference is scheduled for Feb. 15-17 at the Amelia Island Plantation near Jacksonville, Fla.

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