USTMA President Outlines Association's 2022 Priorities
Last year was a busy one for members of the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), says Anne Forristall Luke, the association’s president and CEO. This year is shaping up to be just as action-packed, she explains in this interview.
MTD: The domestic tire market, by all accounts, enjoyed a remarkable recovery in 2021. What do your association's members credit that to?
Forristall Luke: It’s a multi-factor situation. There was a tremendous increase in demand on the replacement side and a little less on the original equipment side - but still strong there. And of course, commercial is doing very well.
Our updated figures from our November 2021 forecast had us doing better than 2019 in several areas, which is probably the right comparison. We’re definitely seeing vehicle miles continue to go up.
Also our members responded nimbly and quickly to the challenges they faced brought on by COVID-19 shock in 2020 in terms of productivity, managing the needs of their workforce, flexing, etc.
That ability to pivot quickly has continued to improve our overall performance and I think it bodes really well for the future.
Workforce (remained) a challenge across the manufacturing sector - not just in the tire industry.
Innovative strategies toward workforce development are going to be critical. That’s why the efforts of our industry to improve the diversity of our workforce is such a big part of (our members’) strategies. I think we’ll see a lot more focus on that.
MTD: What are the USTMA's top priorities in 2022?
Forristall Luke: Our top priorities can be talked about as part of our whole sustainability framework. When we use the word sustainability, we talk about it from a broad perspective, which encompasses environmental stewardship, economic value and social (responsibility.)
We have some major regulatory and scientific issues we are managing in the area of sustainable tire materials.
Another major focus is new market development for scrap tires. Our studies are showing that there is a lot of pressure on scrap tire market development because scrap tire generation - (due to tire) demand - is outpacing the (end user) market.
We’re very focused on climate - energy efficiency and the potential for retreaded tire procurement policies.
Obviously, working with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to modernize performance standards (for tires) is still a top priority and looking ahead, working with NHTSA to make sure the regulatory framework (can accommodate) future mobility.
You will hear our new chairman, Paolo Ferrari, discuss platforms and issues that are important to our members and society. (Editor’s note: Ferrari, who is president and CEO of Bridgestone Americas Inc., took the chair position at USTMA last October.)
That’s an approach that we will be looking at across the board.
A key partner for us will be our tire dealers in working with new leadership at the Tire Industry Association. They have tremendous networks in the states. As you know, scrap tire market development is primarily driven at the state level, so forming partnerships to help build those new frameworks is going to be important for us.
There is the tire itself and the innovation that goes into a tire that will perform well on an electric vehicle.
Then there is the connectivity element - how the tire talks to the vehicle and what happens to the data that’s generated. Who owns that data? Issues around data across and data privacy are critical, as well.
MTD: Which legislative issues are most important to USTMA's members and which ones will you prioritize throughout the year?
Forristall Luke: We got the infrastructure bill passed and now the next part of that work is to make sure those provisions we worked so hard to get are able to realize their full potential.
There are provisions for technology development, where we’d like to see the federal government focus on developing a sustainable infrastructure for highways. That will continue to be a major focus for us on the federal level.
It seems unlikely there will be adequate bipartisan agreement on advancing some aspects of (President Joe Biden's) Build Back Better (program.)
So what opportunities are there for us to work with regulatory agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency to make sure the energy efficiency efforts of our industry help drive the overall goal of cutting greenhouse gas emissions?