Heavy-duty LT tires

June 28, 2011

As the cost of raw materials continues to rise, so do tire prices. Companies and individuals who need trucks to conduct business need to save revenue every way possible. One of those ways is by utilizing light trucks in commercial applications.

In 2010, replacement light truck tire sales, which includes commercial LT tires, totaled $4.3 billion. Many manufacturers have dedicated commercial light truck product lines. Even those who don’t are aware of their importance.

“We have been receiving requests for more 10- ply or E load range tires in highway and varying degrees of all-terrain tread patterns,” says David Shelton, marketing director for GITI Tire (USA) Ltd. GITI does not have a dedicated commercial light truck tire line.

“This would lead one to speculate that many of these tires are being pressed into commercial light truck use. There appears to be a lift in the demand for, and utilization of, commercial light trucks as the economy grows.”

Just a few short years ago, a growing economy seemed a long way off. Replacement light truck tire unit sales dropped 16% from 2007 to 2008. At that time, MTD reported that two main factors — high gas prices and the construction market crash — were to blame.

Today, we still have high gas prices. But thanks to the turnaround in the economy, construction is slowly picking up. So is the demand for commercial light truck tires.

“Cooper Tire forecasts continued growth in commercial light truck tires,” says Bill Hoban, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s national truck tire sales manager. “The driving force behind this growth is twofold. First, OE vehicle manufacturers’ sales are strong and their heavy-duty light truck vehicles are spec-ed with these tires.

“Secondly, fleets are moving toward smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles when they can. This enables them to hire non-commercial driver’s license (CDL) drivers, which lowers their payroll and makes it easier to find drivers.”

There is a shortage of CDL drivers. So the trend toward smaller vehicles in fleets is good news for non-CDL drivers. However, there are greater demands being placed on these drivers, and that is reflected in the way some of them drive.

“We see more and more drivers of commercial light trucks driving faster and faster, simply because of economic reasons and wanting to be as efficient as possible,” says Manon Dijkhuis, public relations and press manager at Apollo Vredestein B.V. “But what most of these drivers don’t realize is that speed, maximum load and tire pressure are directly related.

“Speeding with a heavy load puts more pressure on the tires, which affects the tire itself. The family of Comtrac tires of Vredestein is especially developed for this situation, to make sure that driving stays safe even in these extreme situations.”

In commercial light truck applications where speeding isn’t practical, such as on construction sites, there is a different market demand being created.

“One of the things we have noticed from our customers is that there is an increased demand for commercial light truck tires that have features designed for city and regional roads,” says Libor Heger, brand manager, Continental Tire the Americas LLC. “There are a number of ‘megafleets’ in the pick-up and delivery segment who own commercial light trucks, and these vehicles are not necessarily heavy-duty pickups on construction sites. Instead of an aggressive off-road pattern, they are asking for features designed for sidewall protection and better handling in city environments.”

While some manufacturers receive requests for a broader commercial light truck tire range, others don’t expect growth in this segment. And that’s a good thing.

“Nexen is trending in a positive direction, up 30% through April, a trend we feel will continue to move upward,” says John Aben, vice president of sales and marketing at Nexen Tire America Inc. “In my opinion, this segment is the easiest to forecast and manage the inventory, because of the number of SKUs. There hasn’t been huge growth from OEs adding new sizes; 90% of our sales come from 10 sizes.”

Even though original equipment manufacturers haven’t been adding many new sizes in this segment, the demands being placed on the performance of existing  commercial light truck tires are increasing.

“With the rising price of fuel combined with the shortage of CDL drivers, many companies are now using more light trucks and vans to deliver freight and to move goods,” says Rick Phillips, director of commercial sales at Yokohama Tire Corp. “The demands on these tires are greater than ever.

“There is definitely a trend to design commercial light truck products that can carry more weight to better utilize these vehicles. And, of course, fuel efficiency is always a priority, so the challenge is to do this without sacrificing rolling resistance.”

What are the trends in the design of commercial light truck tires? We asked manufacturers how they are responding to the demands of this changing market. Here are the latest commercial light truck tires they are engineering and manufacturing.


Apollo Vredestein Comtrac All Season

The latest commercial light truck tire from Apollo Vredestein B.V. is the Vredestein Comtrac All Season. The company says it performs well in both the summer and winter, and will provide a comfortable ride, excellent handling and stable road holding.

The balanced tread compound combines a high degree of wear resistance for longer life, and it provides excellent grip on dry, wet and wintry roads. A carefully designed sipe structure also ensures grip and traction on snowy or icy surfaces. The V-shaped tread pattern of the Comtrac All Season is made up of rows of tread blocks splaying out to the left and right in staggered arcs. As a result, noise is minimal.

The Comtrac All Season is available in three sizes: 195/70R15C 104 R, 205/70R15C 106 R and 225/70R15C 112 R.

BFGoodrich Commercial T/A All-Season and Commercial T/A Traction

Michelin North America Inc. says its BFGoodrich Commercial T/A All Season pickup truck tire helps fleet budgets go farther. An optimized footprint better distributes stress to increase tread life and lower operating costs.

The tire can stand up to heavy loads with its reinforced, two-ply polyester carcass that absorbs shocks. It features a stiff tread that improves steering response and road feel.

It also comes with Michelin’s CoolWedge shoulder insert that enhances cooling to prolong tire life. Two steel belts and a contemporary tread design increase average tread life, says Michelin. The all-season tread design was derived from the company’s heavy truck tires for long tread life and durability.

The Commercial T/A Traction is a winter tire with a tread designed for snow and mud. Made for extreme snow and ice, it is molded to accept studs when conditions demand the ultimate in traction. The tire’s improved stress distribution increases average tread life. The Commercial T/A Traction has an optimized footprint for good road hazard protection and bruise puncture resistance. Two steel belts and a stiff tread provide strong steering response in cornering.

Engineered with a dual-compound tread, it also has a special compound added in the tire shoulder to enhance cooling and prolong life. The T/A Traction also has Michelin’s CoolWedge shoulder insert and a two-ply polyester carcass.

Continental HDR, HSR and HSR1

Continental Tire the Americas LLC says it has a good handle on the commercial light truck tire market, and has several OE fitments for Class 4 and 5 trucks. The HSR and HDR tires, sold in size 225/70R19.5 for regional and on/off road traffic, are the OEM tires for the Isuzu N Series, the Dodge Ram 4500/5500 and the Ford F450/550.

The company says these products have a more aggressive tread pattern for regional hauling and on/off road use. In early June, Continental extended the range of the HSR1 truck tire to include the 225/70R19.5 size. The company did so as a special request from large customers operating smaller Class 4 and 5 vehicles in the urban, pick-up and delivery, and regional road segments. Continental says the HSR1 is ideal for this type of traffic and was previously only available for commercial light trucks in size 245, 285 and 305/70R19.5. It has a tread pattern designed for reduced noise and optimum wet traction, patented groove technology that extends casing life by minimizing stone retention, a sidewall curb/scuff rib and a tread compound designed for providing long life in these applications.

Cooper Roadmaster RM170 and RM253

Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.’s RM170 has a wide tread profile and optimized footprint design that delivers long, even tread wear. The V-shaped design of the tread grooves prevents stone retention. Engineered for retreadability, the RM170 has a cool-running base compound, combined with a four-belt construction designed to resist stone penetrations.

The Cooper Roadmaster RM253 features isle siping on the lugs to maximize traction in all types of weather conditions. The aggressive geometric groove base is designed to prevent stone retention and promote self-cleaning capabilities. An all-purpose tread and base compound is specifically formulated for pick-up and delivery and regional applications to enhance overall performance.

Cooper says all of its Roadmaster tires are engineered for retreadability. With a cool-running base compound, an optimized belt/tread package, and tread patterns designed to resist stone penetrations, Roadmaster tires deliver the durability and retreadability fleet owners expect. Both tires are available in three sizes ranging from 225/70R19.5 load range F to 245/70R19.5, load range G.


GT Radial Savero HT2

GITI Tire (USA) Ltd.’s newest light truck product suitable for commercial applications is the GT Radial Savero HT2. The company says it is a premium all-season highway light truck and SUV tire backed with a 40,000-mile limited tread wear warranty.

Available in 33 P-metric and LT sizes (for 15- to 20-inch rims), the GT Radial Savero HT2 fits a broad range of today’s most popular SUVs, pickups and vans. Load ranges are from C to E, and speed ratings are R, S or T.

The tread pattern of the GT Radial Savero HT2 is designed to provide excellent handling and ride comfort. It features advanced noise cancelling technology, which effectively reduces road noise. Additionally, the new tread compound in the GT Radial Savero HT2 delivers optimum grip and stability. A good balance between dry and wet handling is achieved through the company’s carcass tension technology.

Goodyear G933 RSD and G947 RSS

The Goodyear G933 RSD from Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co. features Armor Max technology that provides enhanced toughness and all-season traction on local streets and interstate highways. Designed with advanced compounds and construction, the G933 RSD has reinforced shoulders and steel sidewalls to help deliver long casing life and retreadability.

Goodyear says the tire’s aggressive blading pattern helps provide road-gripping traction. The G933 RSD is M+S stamped because the tread design helps deliver traction in dry, wet, muddy and snowy conditions. The G933 RSD is available in four sizes ranging from LT215/85R16 to LT245/75R16, all load range E.

The G947 RSS Armor Max also has advanced compounds and construction to enhance toughness. Reinforced shoulders and steel-reinforced sidewalls help deliver long casing life and retreadability. Its compound and tread design help promote long tread life and strong performance for curbside parking when used on urban streets. It also has an M+S designation.

Sidewall protector ribs help resist sidewall scuffing from turning, backing and braking when used in local neighborhoods. Sidewall wear indicators help give early warning of wear due to excessive scuffing. The G947 RSS is available in four sizes ranging from LT215/85R16 to LT245/75R16, all load range E.

Hankook Dynapro MT and Dynapro AS

Hankook Tire America Corp. says the Dynapro MT has excellent traction and features a V-shaped center block that grabs the surface under any condition for strong traction. The block edge tapers to a sharp oblique angle, improving the ability to dig into soft ground.

The Dynapro MT’s open and wide grooves are shaped to keep dirt out and provide good grip. Stone ejectors in the center and shoulder grooves help prevent tire damage from stones or external impacts.

Hankook says that because the tire shoulders are most vulnerable to objects protruding from off-road surfaces, it has added a unique under-groove protector to prevent impact damage and soften external shock for greater driving safety.

A side protection block from the tread pattern to the center of the sidewall shields against the shock of protruding objects. This also improves traction in soft dirt and protects pothole damage. The Dynapro MT is available in 18 sizes ranging from LT215/75R15 to LT325/65R18.

Michelin XPS Rib and XPS Traction

The XPS Rib and XPS Traction from Michelin North America Inc. are steel carcass tires, with similar construction features to heavy truck tires. Both are built for severe duty applications.

The XPS Rib summer tire is an on-road retreadable commercial light truck tire that offers long wear life. It has tread compounds specifically developed for commercial applications so tires last longer and business dollars go farther, says Michelin. The steel casing adds strength and allows retreading to greatly extend the life of the tire and keep it on the job.

The XPS Rib is available in four sizes ranging from LT215/85R16 to LT245/75R16, load range E.

The XPS Traction all-season tire is an off-road, retreadable commercial light truck tire. It provides good off-road traction thanks to an aggressive tread design. Anti-chip compounds help provide off-road traction on gravel and rocky terrain.

The steel casing offers long wear life and puncture resistance. The steel casing also allows retreading to greatly extend the life of the tire and keep it on the job. It is available in two sizes, LT215/85R16 and LT235/85R16, both load range E.


Nexen Roadian HT, AT2 and MT

The Roadian HT from Nexen Tire America Inc. has a wide channel design, plus a multiple kerf design for maximum load durability and cornering. A multi-edge block enhances durability and road contact.

The Roadian HT’s shoulder design provides maximum load durability and strong cornering. Features include a multi-edge block for strong durability and good road contact.

The Roadian HT is available in 10 sizes ranging from LT215/75R15 to LT245/75R17.

The Roadian AT2 has a wide and waved channel design for good performance on- and off-road. Like the HT, it features a multiple kerf design for improved snow traction. The AT2’s shoulder design is engineered to provide maximum load durability and cornering. Streamlined lateral grooves-resist hydroplaning.

It is available in nine sizes ranging from LT265/70R17 to LT235/85R16.

The Roadian MT was designed for strong on- and off-road performance.

It features a deep lug tread, specially designed shoulders and a rigid tread block design for maximum load durability and low weight. In addition, wide grooves resist hydroplaning. It is available in three sizes — LT235/75R15, LT265/75R16 and LT235/85R16.

Toyo M-54, M-55 and Open Country

The M-54 from Toyo Tire U.S.A. Corp. features a deep tread for  long wear. The M-54’s solid outer shoulders reduce noise at highway speeds while increasing stability. Wide circumferential grooves and a special sipe placement improve wet traction.

Toyo says the M-54 is ideal for everyday use on heavy-duty work trucks and in commercial applications. It is available in size LT235/85R16, load range E.

Toyo’s M-55 is M- and S-rated. It features an aggressive block and lug design that provides excellent traction and a smooth ride, even in demanding load-hauling situations, says Toyo. The M-55 is ideal for farm, ranch and construction environments where road surface conditions can get rough. Available sizes include 15-, 16-, 17- and 18-inch rim diameters. Widths range from 215mm to 285mm with 85- down to 70-series profiles.

Toyo’s newest tire for commercial light truck applications is the Open Country H/T with Tuff Duty. The Open Country H/T features a three-belt construction highway tread for use on high-torque diesel pickups and commercial light trucks. The Open Country H/T with Tuff Duty fits popular 16- and 17-inch sizes.

For commercial light trucks using 19.5-inch wheels, Toyo Tires offers the M143 premium all-position highway tire. The M143 has a deep tread with a five-rib zigzag pattern and a casing designed for retreadability.

For areas where trucks require additional drive traction, truck owners use the M143 as a steer tire with the Toyo M608Z as a drive tire. The M608Z is a wide block, lug pattern tire with a 22/32-inch tread. Its casing design and compound also allows for retreadability.

Yokohama RY215 and Y788R

Yokohama Tire Corp.’s RY215 light truck commercial tire features a highway steel-belted radial rib. The company says the RY215 slices through standing water to provide great wet-road performance. Designed for good handling, the RY215 has tapered, multi-kerf shoulders to prolong tread life and improve steering stability.

The RY215 is engineered with wide grooves and deep kerfs to disperse water efficiently for wet-weather handling. Its high turn-up construction and bead filler designs reduce bead-line cracking and improve responsiveness.

Yokohama says its Y788R light truck commercial tire is designed to perform in all driving conditions. It also provides on-highway stability and high-load durability, and is an ideal steer tire.

The Y788R is designed with a five-rib, wide-shoulder-groove tread design that provides good stability and grip. In addition, heavy-duty, two-ply steel belts deliver handling stability and puncture resistance.

Polyester body plies increase comfort on the road, says Yokohama.