Matt White’s path to becoming a prominent figure in the tire industry blossomed from a farm in Booneville, New York. Growing up surrounded by heavy machinery and tire equipment, Matt developed a natural affinity for mechanics at a young age.
“I was on the farm, doing general logging work with big machines, and they had tires,” Matt said. “I unknowingly learned a lot by necessity. It wasn’t to fulfill a career path at that time; it was more like, ‘Hey, change this tire and put a tube in it’ kind of deal.”
After graduating high school, Matt served four years in the U.S. Army. When he returned to civilian life, he struggled to find his rightful place in the job market. He started a fishing business where he led guided tours and taught others how to fish for a couple of years, but Matt still wanted to hone his mechanical aptitude. This paved the way for a career in the tire industry spanning decades and reaching over 40 countries and four continents.
Matt’s tire career began in Oneida, New York, at Hanifin Tire in the mid-1980s, where he turned a small, independent operation into a thriving business.
“When I got there, it was a two-guy garage that made very little money,” he said. “I eventually became the general manager and grew the business to include commercial truck, farm and automotive service. When we started servicing heavy duty, [we had to] build another couple of buildings to deal with the growth.”
Matt’s experience at Hanifin Tire opened his eyes to the glaring absence of training and safety measures for tire technicians at the time. So, he enrolled in many tire and part manufacturer and ASE trainings to equip himself with the necessary skills with the goal of helping others. Determined to address the lack of training, he participated in various classes, traveling across the country for extensive training sessions.
Over time, Matt’s expertise grew, and he began leading training sessions himself. He started in upstate New York, providing classes for major industry players like Snap-On, NAPA and local businesses, placing a strong emphasis on safety within the tire business.
Matt’s wealth of training experience caught the attention of the Tire Industry Association (TIA) in 2007 when he started as a contractor. With TIA, Matt opened up his shop to be used as a filming site for the new TPMS training program at the time.
“I was pretty much the technical guy,” Matt said, who has been the director of tire service for TIA since 2012.
“My job is very simple, I save lives,” Matt said. “Unfortunately in our business, there is a risk of injury or fatality. I feel like many folks don’t recognize the importance of the tire technician and the safety and knowledge it takes do the proper procedures.”
Matt’s comprehensive training knowledge in TPMS, commercial trucks, automotive, OTR and farm tires has helped him develop strong relationships in the industry and made him sought after worldwide.
From remote mines in Alaska to the unforgiving terrains of Mongolia, Africa and Colombia, there’s nowhere Matt won’t go to deliver his expertise.
One of his most memorable experiences was introducing TIA training to the Western Africa Tire Service (WATS), one of the biggest vehicle service providers in Western Africa for Rana Motors which is based in Accra, Ghana. Rana is an authorized distributor for Kia, Jeep, Fiat, and others in Ghana.
“The distance and travel to places never concerned me,” Matt said. “What concerned me was people not having training like we do here in the States. That’s why we spread training all over the world. It’s just unreal that a kid that started in a tire store went on to train in West Africa and beyond.”
Despite his efforts, Matt said there is still so much to be done in the industry to improve safety and grow technician pride.
“I want people to understand what’s at stake,” he said. “I want to tell them that they’re not just tire guys or ladies. They’re tire technicians – the largest organization of service providers in the world. People need to understand what we actually do. You don’t have to be a football player, a basketball player or anything else to be famous. You can just be a rockstar showing people how to be safe in our great tire industry.”