As the world gets back to business, tire suppliers are finding it hard to keep up with the growing demand for innovative products.
The OTR (off-the road) tire market is going through a number of exciting changes. For starters, innovations in tire science have led to the creation of OTR tires specifically designed for winter conditions, and according to manufacturers, their popularity is growing quickly, especially here in Canada.
“Going back over the last number of years, the one trend that is becoming more and more popular is snow radial OTR tires,” explains Gregory Pickering, Segment Manager, Non DOT Products, Dynamic Tire. “Back in 2017, these tires represented about 30% of our business. This year they are going to be close to 50%. That’s significant, and we’re seeing lots of other players develop tires for this market, whereas it used to be only two or three brands.”
Pickering says demand is so high for snow radial OTR tires that Dynamic Tire can’t keep up with demand. “Every year, we order more of these tires, and every year we basically sell out of them,” he says. “So here in Canada, we haven’t found the ceiling yet.”
Pickering adds that snow radial tires for the backhoe and skid steer markets have mushroomed at an astonishing rate. “In 2018, we sold about 12 snow radial tires for skid steer loaders and backhoes,” he says. “This year, we’re going to sell 1,500 of them.”
Another interesting trend, Pickering says, is the fact that snow radial OTR tires are now used year-round, rather than during the winter months. “People used to treat them like winter tires,” he explains. “They would put them on in October and take them off in March, for example. Now, they’re running them all year round, unless they have a reason why they can’t. But if they’re in any kind of application where there is no requirement to take them off, they leave them on all year round now.”
This trend has turned what used to be a seasonal business into an opportunity to sell winter tires throughout the year. “We’re selling these tires every month,” Pickering says. “We’re even selling them in June and July.”
Rob Seibert, President, Off the Road, Bridgestone Americas says that although he sees a big demand for winter products, he’s also seeing a growing demand for an all-season tire that can be used in a variety of conditions.
Earlier this year, Bridgestone added the VSWAS 23.5R25 to their OTR lineup of radial snow tires. Designed for grader and loader applications, it’s ideal for deep snow and was designed for year-round use.
“What’s unique about it is the all-season aspect,” Seibert says. “For years, Bridgestone has had the V-Steel Snow Wedge tire, which provides excellent performance in packed snow and on ice, and is designed specifically for winter conditions and equipment used in snow removal. It’s extremely popular.
“The trend that we have been seeing now is the growing demand for an all-season tire, with the ability to operate in heavy, deep snow in loader and grader applications. Our customers also want to have the flexibility to use the tire year-round, and be able to us it in rock, gravel, and other applications without having to do a seasonal change-out.”
Tony Cresta, Director of Product Management, CMA / Double Coin is also seeing an uptick in the popularity of OTR tires for the winter. In addition, he’s seeing a rapid growth in certain tire sizes, especially those for larger loaders: 875/65R29 and 775/65R29.
“They have become a lot more popular in the last two years than they were previously,” Cresta says. “We’ve been bringing those in for our customers, and at first, we could barely keep them on the shelves. So we were pleasantly surprised.”
Cresta says that many of the newer and larger loaders have moved to these sizes, and that demand is up likely because these loaders are simply due for a new set after coming onto the market in the last few years.
He adds that tire dealers who supply that end of the OTR market need to consider stocking these tires for their customers. “If they’re not looking at that market, they should be,” he concludes.
Forecast for 2023
All the experts seem to agree that the OTR market will do well in 2023. Double Coin’s Cresta says that costs are stabilizing, which is good news for everyone in the industry. “We’ve seen the cost of shipping continue to go down, and that’s helped us with the rising cost of oil, rubber and steel. So that’s been how we’ve managed to remain competitive,” he explains.
Bridgestone’s Seibert says his company is also looking forward to a brighter and better new year, despite the fact that higher interest rates will likely impact the market. “We’re very positive about 2023,” he says. “We think there are some strong underlying fundamentals around commodity prices and non-residential projects, but we will we have to keep our eye on the residential housing market right now, with the changes in interest rates. We’ll have to see what kind of impact they’ll have as we move into 2023.”