The 2014 Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) is over. But there is still plenty to look forward to, says Paul Williams, executive vice president for truck tires for Continental Tire the Americas LLC.
According to Williams, Continental has anticipated market challenges with products and services available in 2014. He predicts not only continued growth in the North American markets, but also a 2% growth in the global market for commercial vehicles.
He also outlined future transportation challenges, and the tires with which Continental plans to address those challenges.
1. Public transit. Continental predicts that urban bus and motorcoach will initially be the fastest-growing public transit areas. The company launched two tires for these segments at the show: the Conti Urban HA3 for city buses and Conti Coach HA3 for long distance motorcoaches.
2. Cargo and shipping. With the estimated opening of the Panama Canal expansion in 2015, Continental believes port shipments can double in the next 10 years. “Today, we are helping port operators and shippers with their tire needs by making available in North America our full new line of Continental commercial specialty tires for the port business,” says Williams.
3. Construction. The Obama administration has proposed a 2015 budget that includes $10 billion over four years covering highway, rail and port projects. Next year, American construction is expected to increase by 10% for airports and terminals; 6% for bridges and overpasses; and 5% for heavy and light rail. “Medium duty trucks and class 4 and 5 pickup trucks will take on a great deal of this work -- but until recently, the tire choices in this market were limited to ‘one size fits all.’ Continental has begun expanding its portfolio of 19.5-inch truck tires by increasing the fuel efficiency of its HSR and HDR original equipment tires. At MATS, Continental previewed its first specialized tire for this segment, the high-traction Conti TerraPlus HD3. Tires for the winter and hybrid segments are forthcoming.
4. Shifting traffic patterns. The new generation of urban workers, Generation Y, is in an anti-commuting mindset, and the nation’s largest cities are actually growing faster than the rest of America, says Williams. This gives rise to urban areas that are growing closer together; however, the same trucks that deliver goods to these cities are also expected to travel long distances with the same tires. The new Hybrid HS3 steer tire is designed for both regional and long haul performance.
5. Environment. The North American market demand for retreads, which use approximately one-third the raw materials of a new tire, is expected to increase by nearly 17% by the end of 2018. (In the Americas, Continental has more than 30 licensed ContiTread outlets.) Continental is also pioneering raw material research with its project to industrialize low environmental impact natural rubber from dandelions. “We predict that as a companion to the mandate for EPA to develop new emissions standards for trucks by 2016, SmartWay rolling resistance limits for truck tires will eventually become tougher." Continental introduced its Conti EcoPlus HS3 steer tire at MATS.
6. Technologies. Traffic congestion remains an increasing problem in America; it grew 6% last year. In order to reduce this economic drain, Continental predicts that connected vehicles and automated technologies will be enabled in the next decade to allow for wireless traffic sensing, road hazards and even inspections. “Continental engineers are already testing tire sensors that can eventually contribute to vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication and vehicle to infrastructure (V2X) by sensing the vehicle’s load," says Williams. "Future tire sensors will also be able to interface with the truck’s safety and data systems. The Continental Commercial Vehicle Group has made "a significant upgrade" to its ContiPressureCheck tire pressure monitoring system with automated trailer learning capabilities.
7. Trucking fleet needs. The Commercial Vehicle Tire group has been restructured by adding strategic account managers dedicated to medium to large fleets in North America. Continental also has added mechanical service in its TrukFix and ContiFleet emergency breakdown programs, and has partnered with Love’s Travel Stops to carry Continental and General brand truck tires.
Continental also willl launch its Conti360⁰ Fleet Services Web portal this summer.
“On this site, our fleet customers will be able to view all of their Continental statements, invoices, credits and tire monitoring reports in a single location," says Williams.
How will Continental meet these increased market demands? By taking advantage of the company’s record 1 billion euro investment in high-tech testing and production capacities for its tire business.
"Over the next decade we will be poised to take on the challenges of the future. We invite fleets to stop by our booth at Mid-America, where we are aligned with our Commercial Vehicle and Aftermarket group and ContiTech, to see everything Continental has to offer the trucking industry,” adds Williams.
Bob Ulrich was named Modern Tire Dealer editor in August 2000. He joined the magazine in 1985 as assistant editor, and has been responsible for gathering statistical information for MTD's "Facts Issue" since 1993.