Dedicated LT winter tires
In March 2014, Modern Tire Dealer looked at winter passenger tire trends. As the winter tire buying season winds down, it is time to examine the trends and products in the sometimes forgotten winter LT tire segment, which caters to 3/4- and one-ton vehicles.
“LT-metric sized tires are designed for use on light trucks and their higher load carrying capabilities,” says Anant Gandhi, product manager for the United States and Canada, Bridgestone Americas Tire Operations LLC. “LT-metric tires are typically also built with specific construction features allowing them to be used at higher inflation pressures to carry the higher loads that light trucks, such as 3/4-ton and one-ton vehicles, are designed for.”
Although Bridgestone considers the winter LT tire market to be stable, the company does expect incremental growth due to new legislation in Quebec, according to Gandhi. The Canadian province has extended its dedicated winter snow tire requirement to light trucks. Quebec had permitted LT-size tires for winter use under the law, which took effect in 2008.
Beginning in 2014, only tires equipped with studs or that carry a symbol of a snowflake inside a three-peaked mountain qualify as winter tires. The symbol shows a tire meets or exceeds industry-established snow traction performance requirements. It is also referred to as the severe service emblem, mountain snowflake and 3PMSF (short for three peak mountain snow flake).
How winter LT-size tires differ
LT-sized winter tires are constructed to carry more weight and run higher inflation pressures than P-metric winter tires. The tread compound between the LT-size and P-metric size differs, too. “LT winter tires are designed to remain flexible in cold temperatures,” says Steve Bourassa, product manager for Nokian Tyres Inc. “However, they also need to meet the users’ expectations for durability and endurance found in other LT all-season tires.”
Bourassa says the company uses stronger and more durable studs in its LT-size tires versus a P-metric winter studded tire. Nokian’s winter LT tires all carry the severe service emblem.
Ron Golab, advertising specialist and marketing assistant for Toyo Tire Canada Inc., says LT-sized tires specifically designed for winter applications basically come with all the latest winter tire technology found in Toyo’s passenger line-up.
However, the rubber compound in LT and high flotation sizes intended for commercial or heavy off-road use is “tougher” in order to deal with heavy loads and difficult terrain.
“They are maximized for snow and ice traction, always keeping in mind the job they need to do,” says Golab. “All Toyo winter tires come with the winter snowflake designation indicating that they exceed the necessary requirements for a winter tire.”
Better for stopping and cornering
Bourassa says some consumers and fleets looking for tires to help them navigate winter roads will, to their disadvantage, opt for an all-terrain (A/T) tread pattern without a severe service emblem, over a dedicated LT-size winter tire design.
“They often refer to the AWD/4WD system, coupled with an A/T tread, as sufficient for the winter period. It is important to remind them that AWD/4WD systems may help them provide traction from a stop, but a dedicated LT-size winter tire will improve their stopping and cornering ability with significant improvements over an A/T tread without a severe service emblem.”
Winter technology gets greener
Bourassa says LT-size tire technology is going in the same direction as car tire technology. “We are looking to find lighter materials to lower rolling resistance without sacrificing load carrying capacity and more durable compounds. Cut-resistant compounds play a very important role both in tread and on sidewalls.”
Nokian introduced new sidewall technology in its latest studded winter tire, the Hakkapeliitta 8 SUV. Bourassa says the durability of sidewalls was optimized by aramid fibers, a heat-resistance fiber widely used in the aerospace and defense industries.
“We are looking for ways to integrate that cutting-edge technology into future generations of LT-size products. We are also working on advancing our stud technology for future LT-size product lines.”
Golab says environmental concerns are influencing the future of LT-size winter tires. Better tread compounds reduce energy loss, which improves tire efficiency and rolling resistance.
“Making winter tires with lower rolling resistance and natural products is a focus. Saving the customer fuel, lasting longer, and with a smaller environmental footprint is the goal. All this while not only trying to maintain excellent traction, but continually move forward and improve it.”
The traditional studdable LT-size winter patterns require studs for traction on snow and ice, according to Conrad Galamgam, senior director of the technical department for Nitto Tire U.S.A. Inc.
“Once these tires are studded, the ice traction increases, but the tire can no longer be used year-round. Truck owners are looking for tires that can be used year-round; they don’t want two sets of tires.”
Galamgam expects new tread compounds to lead to greater winter traction while maintaining tread life for year-round use. “These new tread compounds will continue to evolve as we strive to find the best balance of winter traction while maintaining tread life for high-torque, diesel-powered pickups.” Ron Margadonna, senior marketing manager, Michelin North America Inc., also thinks “white road performance increases” will come mostly through material evolution.
Barry Terzaken, product manager, light truck and winter tires for Continental Tire the Americas LLC, says his company is constantly trying to improve ice and snow traction while maintaining comfort, a smooth ride and reduced noise. “Of particular importance for LT-size tires is having a robust construction and being able to carry the heavy loads that a light truck requires.”
Winter LT line-up
Eight participants in the winter tire segment provided MTD with updates on their latest LT products. Several manufacturers are introducing new LT-size winter tires while others are adding sizes to existing lines
Gandhi, Bridgestone: The Firestone WinterForce LT is our newest LT winter tire offering. While the majority of the line was launched in 2010, we have continued to introduce new sizes since then. We just added the new LT 275/65R20, a very popular new LT size, which will launch in July. We also have a Bridgestone offering, the Blizzak W965 featuring one of our proprietary multi-cell compounds. All of the winter tires that Bridgestone manufactures are dedicated winter tires. We do not mark our A/T or all-terrain tires with the three-peak mountain snowflake. At Bridgestone, we differentiate between all-terrain tires and dedicated winter tires.
Terzaken, Continental: The General Altimax tire line carries the Altimax Arctic, which was introduced in 2007 in popular LT winter tire sizes. Altimax Arctic does have the mountain snowflake winter tire symbol.
Julie Manson, brand manager, winter and Canada, Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co.: The Goodyear Ultra Grip Ice WRT, the Dunlop Grandtrek SJ5 and the Dunlop Grandtrek SJ6 lines all offer LT-size winter tires. All Goodyear and Dunlop tires that are marketed as winter tires feature the mountain snowflake designation.
Steven Liu, director of consumer tire marketing, Hercules Tire & Rubber Co.: We are seeing an increase in demand for winter tires, especially in the light truck segment. We offer LT sizes in our Hercules Avalanche line, all of which carry the mountain snowflake symbol.
Margadonna, Michelin: The Michelin LTX Winter, the BFG Commercial Traction T/A and the Uniroyal Laredo HD/T have the three-peak mountain snowflake marking well in advance of the 2014 Quebec Province regulation.
Galamgam, Nitto: The Nitto Exo Grappler AWT, an all-weather traction LT-size tire, is designed to meet the demands of off-road truck enthusiasts in need of winter traction.
Nitto will launch the tire in July in eight sizes, release three more sizes during the remainder of 2014 and continue to expand the size line-up through 2015.
The new tread compound was developed for balanced durability on gravel and highway roads while having the added benefit of traction through wet, snow, ice and slush. Three-ply sidewall construction helps provide off-road durability, and sidewall traction lugs offer an additional layer of sidewall protection.
Bourassa, Nokian: Nokian offers the Hakkapeliitta LT2, which was introduced in 2012, as a preferred LT-size winter tire. Designed for heavy 4x4 SUVs, light trucks and vans, it features a reinforced steel belt package with a special tear, cut, and abrasion resistant rubber compound for improved durability.
The Nokian Hakkapeliitta LT2 has the severe service emblem and is offered in 12 LT sizes with an additional three pending for late 2014 or early 2015.
The Rotiiva AT is an all-terrain, all-season tire with the severe service emblem introduced in 2012 and available in 16 LT sizes.
Golab, Toyo: Our latest winter LT-size tire is the Open Country C/T. It is a commercial-duty light truck tire mainly expected to be used by fleets or any commercial application needing a tough light truck tire with the winter snowflake designation.
This addition to the Open Country line comes with a tough three-ply sidewall in a 10-E ply rating. With added winter traction and a cut-resistant compound, we expect this to be a very successful product. It will be available in the fall of 2014 in Canada. The tire is considered an all-terrain tire for all seasons.
All Toyo winter tires come with the winter snowflake designation. ■
To read the entire June 2014 issue of Modern Tire Dealer, see our digital version here.