Demand for all types of original equipment manufacturer commercial truck tires is down significantly this year, according to figures released by the Rubber Manufacturers Assn. (RMA). The drop will be to the tune of 44%, or some 2.2 million units, the organization said.
Replacement truck tire demand is also predicted to drop, with the market on track to realize a decrease of over 3 million units in 2009 to approximately 12 million units as a result of the protracted and slow U.S. economic recovery, RMA stated.
None of those statistics surprise truck tire experts. “There's a lot of iron sitting out there right now, both trucks and trailers,” said Kevin Rohlwing, senior vp of the Tire Industry Assn. (TIA) and Fleet Owner columnist. “That's why the RMA's forecast is so dismal. Right now, low tire demand is a reflection of what's going on in the trucking market.”
Overall tire shipments — OEM and replacement units for passenger cars and light-duty trucks as well as commercial vehicles — are projected to fall by about 16% in 2009, dropping by some 45 million units to 237 million units, according to the RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast.
This level is almost 84 million units less than the peak of 321 million units seen in 2000, the group noted, and is an end result of the struggles of automotive manufacturers brought on by low consumer confidence, high unemployment and depressed home values.
TIA's Rohlwing stressed, however, that the RMA data on truck tire shipments does not indicate that fleets are pushing tire life cycles out further than they should.
“The fleets still in business today have pretty good tire programs. They understand the costs are too high to abandon programs designed to reduce blowouts and preserve tire casings for retreading,” he explained. “If you run your tires too long and too far, you risk losing your casings, and then you are unable to retread them or turn them in for credit.”
On a more positive noted, RMA does predict that overall domestic tire sales could stabilize in the near future and may recover significantly in some sectors if the economy improves substantially. Still, in the truck tire segment, that recovery is projected to be uneven.
For OEM truck tires, the U.S. economic rebound anticipated for 2010 along with demand for vehicles is projected to result in a net gain of about 500,000 units, with the replacement truck tire market expected to increase by less than 1 million units to nearly 13 million total by 2010.