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Industrial tire trends

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Industrial tire trends

The dialogue at commercial dealerships is shifting from the price to the quality of industrial tires. Productivity and longevity are now trumping the lowest possible price in the purchase decision. “What we’re seeing mostly in terms of trends is the willingness of customers to take heed of what we’re telling them about what a tire will really do,” says Ned Edwards, owner of Star Tire Co. Inc. in Dallas, Texas.

“Tires are so expensive now that our story to customers is how long will you keep it and how many miles will you drive a year. By knowing those things you can suggest a product that will be the lowest cost per hour or the lowest cost per mile,” says Edwards, who opened his shop on Jan. 1, 1986. Today he employs 35 people and operates eight service trucks. About 20% of his business is wheel repair, 15% retail tire sales and service, and the rest is commercial sales and service.

“Customers are realizing they need to buy a product that will last,” says Tom Van Ormer, director of purchasing for the East Bay Tire Co. “It is not a deal to buy low quality tires at a cheaper price if they will not perform. It is a fact that customers are starting to recognize and good sales reps are stressing.”

However, a low price does not mean quality is suspect, according to Carl Casalbore, president of BKT Tires USA Inc. “We’re proud of our product technology and our quality. Our adjustment rates are very, very low across the U.S. and the world.” He says the BKT brand offers “tremendous value” through a combination of reasonable price, extensive size range, long-lasting performance and a low adjustment rate.

Edwards views tires as an investment, and his sales staff wants customers to get the most out of their purchase. “We try to quantify and qualify the products we’re asking these customers to invest money in.” Four of his five sons help run the company, which does about $7.5 million in sales annually and has about $1 million in inventory. “We’re not the biggest but our longevity is based on being focused on our customers and taking care of them.”

Product and application knowledge is precisely what quality-minded customers want from dealers, according to Bruce Besancon, vice president of marketing for Alliance Tire Americas Inc. “One of the trends that we have seen over the last few years is that most of the companies operating now are true survivors and have increased their business skills in order to be profitable since 2009.”

Besancon says these companies want products they can trust and partners they can rely on in order to help them continue to be profitable. “Today’s survivors want to see a good return on their investment in tires. They want tires that will last and that will keep their machinery running day after day.” The survivors are also looking for suppliers to trust. “Customers want their partner tire dealers to be their tire experts and provide them with good advice in choosing the right tire at the right price for their operation and then give them safe, reliable, and consistent service after the sale.”

Edwards has sold Alliance brand tires for nearly 30 years. He also sells Yokohama industrial tires. He says both tires deliver “exceptional” performance that helps him retain customers. He suggests tire dealers look at a tire’s performance, not cost. “We did that eons ago and it made a big difference in our repeat sales.”

Market looks promising in 2014

Manufacturers told MTD they are optimistic about the industrial tire market. “With new housing starts beginning to rebound, sales in the skid steer segment have begun to slowly improve,” says Adam Brown, product marketing manager, AG/construction for Carlisle Transportation Products.

The sentiment at East Bay Tire, whose dealer network has grown by 15% to 20% in the past year, is also positive. “We feel the overall market is good as the economy continues to improve on a national basis and for our line of products, the Dawg Pound,” says Van Ormer. California is the exception. Van Ormer says drought conditions could reduce irrigation water for farming by up to 80% and require strict water rationing for consumers, which would “have a potentially devastating effect on all construction and potential growth.”

The North American market will fare better than European markets in 2014, says Continental Tire the Americas LLC. The company estimates a double digit decline for various markets in Europe, according to Federico Jiminez, sales and marketing manager for commercial specialty tires. Although Continental experienced a market decline of around 5% in North America in 2013, the company expects a market recovery in 2014 as the economy and the need for material handling continues to grow.

Alliance Tire is tracking several indicators that bode well for  2014. Gross domestic product has grown significantly over the last few quarters, led by increased construction activity in housing and the private sector. Besancon expects the increase in construction to lead to higher demand for industrial and construction tires.

“We are looking forward to seeing increased activity in all industrial sectors from concrete producers to forestry and lumber companies as well as ports and other facilities that help support the growth in construction. As more materials start moving we will see an increase in the activity of the forklifts, loaders and skid steers that handle these products,” says Besancon.

In the energy sector, Besancon says coal might be slower but that could be offset by increases in the oil and natural gas area. The government sector could also provide opportunities if monies are allocated for infrastructure needs.

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Tires get more durable

Demand for industrial tires is rising with economic activity. “We are seeing more growth in the solid skid steer market, in particular the 33-12-20 and 31-10-20, sizes especially for the recycling market, and the telehandler sizes of 1300-24 and 1400-24, says Van Ormer. East Bay Tire offers the skid steers in a traction and smooth design and will be introducing telehandler sizes in the near future.

Casalbore says radialization is gaining momentum in all pneumatic tire segments. Dealers can place orders now for BKT’s radial forklift tires, which will be available in sizes 9 inch through 15 inch (wheel diameter) in the U.S. market. In addition, BKT has improved its all-steel radial tires (sizes 18 inches to 20 inches wheel diameter) for telehandlers and loaders through construction and compounding with the goal to “get more hours for the end consumer.”

Continental’s Jiminez says within industrial tires, especially for material handling, there are two main market segments: value products and premium products. In the value segment there are few to no major innovations, according to Jiminez. However, to meet this specific demand for a cost-effective solution, Continental launched its AmeriSteel super elastic and Astrum Blue press-on bands in 2013, which are remolded industrial tires for cost and environmental benefits.

“The premium market is where Continental brings the latest technologies and added value products to our industrial tire business,” says Jiminez. Customers in this segment are seeking lower energy consumption, longer lifetimes, more efficient operations and environmental benefits of less material usage. “The trend toward evaluating industrial tire purchases based on the total cost of ownership, as opposed to just upon the initial acquisition cost, is continuing to grow in this market as more customers move toward a premium industrial tire,” he says.

Continental has taken steps to meet many of these requirements. “For the premium market, we also took the step of fine-tuning our top selling solid tire family, by splitting it into two different applications,” says Jiminez. For electric forklifts operating primarily in the warehousing environment, Continental will be implementing the SC20 Energy+, which has extremely low rolling resistance. Jiminez says the lowered energy consumption for the forklift is directly related to the battery lifetime and allows the vehicle to operate up to 20% longer versus a competitor’s tire.

“For the needs of the outdoor usage market, where surfaces are unpaved, we have added a new compound for specifically preventing chipping and chunking, which uses innovative short chain sulfur connections,” says Jiminez. The compound in the new SC20 Mileage+ tire offers improved lifetimes over its predecessor through longer wear and damage resistance, and again lowers the total cost of ownership through longer operations. Jiminez says both the SC20 Energy+ and SC20 Mileage+ tires will be available in the North American markets in certain sizes this year.

For environmentally conscious customers in the premium segment, Continental offers the CSEasy line, which is a solid tire that can be fitted with an Allen key. Because no press is needed, customers can fit the tire themselves and reduce equipment downtime for service or tire changes. In addition, the CSEasy tires have the lowest rolling resistance in the Continental family.

Carlisle sees a strong trend toward tires that resist going flat when operating in environments that naturally cut the tire. The company developed the Carlisle Ultra Guard LVT in response. “The new Carlisle Ultra Guard LVT tire meets that need head-on with strong construction and an extremely deep tread while retaining the air chamber of a pneumatic tire for performance and ride comfort,” says Brown. He says the company sees more customers preferring tires made in the U.S.A. Carlisle manufactures all skid steer tires in Tennessee with high standards for quality, durability and performance.

Domenic Mazzola, vice president of engineering and OE sales for Alliance Tire, expects increased demand for tires with a reputation for reliability in tough conditions, such as the Galaxy Beefy Baby III R-4 and Hulk L-5 skid steer tires. Alliance says it is also seeing much interest in purpose-built tires like the Galaxy Muddy Buddy, a skid steer tire for soft or muddy conditions. Radials on backhoes are still a very small part of the market, says Mazzola, but Alliance expects to see demand grow steadily, particularly among companies that run their backhoes more frequently on the road between job sites. “Those customers are leading the shift to radials as they seek the improved wear resistance of radials over bias ply tires. We have several offerings under both the Galaxy and Alliance brands to meet the growing demand for backhoe radials, including the Galaxy Multi Tough and the Galaxy Industrial Earth Mover Radial, as well as the Alliance 606 and 608 non-directional and Alliance 570 and 580 directional designs.”

Mazzola says there’s growing demand for tread patterns beyond the traditional R-4 pattern. The company’s Galaxy Multi Tough non-directional tread design performs well off-road and also out-performs standard R-4 lug tires for operators who run their equipment extensively on the road. Similarly, the Galaxy Jumbo Hulk has a block design tread that has a high rubber-to-void ratio to improve its performance in severe conditions and provide excellent wear on hard surfaces. In the material handling segment, more telehandlers are running on paved sites now, so there’s a shift to more solid tread patterns, such as the Galaxy Giraffe XLW tire, according to Mazzola.

More tires for more applications

Continental launched a new port tire portfolio in Europe in the summer of 2013 and will bring tires from the portfolio to North America throughout 2014. The new portfolio features special tires for all vehicles in port logistics such as straddle carriers, reach stackers, gantry cranes, terminal tractors, terminal trailers and heavy-duty forklifts.

Nearly all of these tires are based on Continental’s “V.ply” technology. Jiminez says the technology combines the best of both bias and radial tire construction by integrating an innovative weaving pattern of multiple cords arranged at specially designed angles. A V.ply tire is extremely sturdy with sidewalls that are up to three times thicker than those of a typical radial tire, according to Jiminez. “Vehicles using the V.ply tires, especially when carrying higher stacks such as straddle carriers, are less likely to tilt and cause accidents. At the same time, the typical ‘kissing effect’ of twin-tired vehicles is significantly lowered.”

In January 2014, Carlisle introduced a line of severe-duty skid steer tires called the Ultra Guard LVT. “This tire is designed to deliver the longest service life in the most severe applications and has a low void tread pattern which provides maximum net ground contact for hard surface applications,” says Brown. “The extra premium chip- and chunk-resistance compound used combats wear in abrasive service site application areas such as demolition, rock, gravel and concrete. This tire also has 44/32nds tread depth in order to provide superior service life.”

Also in January, East Bay Tire added three sizes of the Bad Dawg pneumatic industrial lugs: 650-10 12, 250-15 20 and 1000-20 16 ply. The company also added three Solid Dawg solid pneumatic tires and press-ons in sizes 27-10-12, 250-15, and 16-6-10 1/2. East Bay Tire expanded its pneumatic skid steer tire line with the size 33-15.5-16.5 with a heavy duty traction application in the Bad Dawg and a hard surface application in the Ruff Dawg.

BKT began rolling out its bias heavy-duty range Con Star brand for telehandlers in January. The new lineup is available in sizes 18 inches through 24 inches (wheel diameter). In addition, BKT has added sizes to its solid forklift tires, which now range from 8 inches to 15 inches (wheel diameter).

Alliance Tire recently introduced the Alliance 550, a steel-belted radial with a directional tread design in the two most popular skid steer sizes 265/70R16.5 (10R16.5) and 305/70R16.5 (12R16.5), and a non-directional deep-treaded skid steer tire, the Galaxy Trac Star. The Galaxy Trac Star will be available in 10-16.5 and 12-16.5 in high ply ratings. It features a deep, small block pattern for great wear on hard surfaces but will not damage turf like a typical R-4 directional lug design, according to Steve Vandegrift, product and pricing manager.    ■

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