LOUISVILLE, Ky.-Although economic indicators are signaling a slowdown in the U.S. economy, the trucking and truck tire industries should perform well through the middle of next year, according to Pete Bogatinoff, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. truck tire marketing manager. ``1994 was a tremendous year for truck tires, and we are predicting 1995 to be similar to, or better than '94 levels; tapering off slightly around the middle of '96, especially in the (original equipment) segment,'' Mr. Bogatinoff told attendees of the American Retreaders' Association World Tire Conference in Louisville, April 6.
Mr. Bogatinoff predicted replacement truck tire levels to remain around 12.48 million units, through he said the industry will continue its radialization trend. Next year he said he expects replacement levels to decline to 12.28 million.
Truck tire sales to the original equipment market should increase to 4.98 million units this year then drop to 4.38 million in 1996, riding strong new vehicle forecasts.
Much of the coming good fortune can be attributed to the momentum the trucking industry gained last year, he said, noting fleets showed year-to-date increases of 7 to 8 percent in miles, tons and revenues.
Truck ton-miles are forecasted to rise 4 percent this year and an additional 3.5 percent next year, with long haul ton-miles up 4.3 percent and 3.7 percent in 1995 and 1996 respectively, and short haul up 1.5 percent in each of both years, he said.
The strong year for trucking fleets, which helped produce record original equipment and replacement truck tire shipments, should balance such negative factors as the devaluation of the dollar, the drop in value of the Mexican peso, the threat of higher inflation, rising interest rates and a decline in consumer confidence, Mr. Bogatinoff said.
Each of those economic downturns occurred during the first quarter of 1995, prompting ARA Executive Director Marvin Bozarth to lament, ``The latest government figures suggest the economy isn't as strong as they had led us to believe a couple of months ago.''
Truck tire retread production is expected to increase only 2.5 percent this year, to 16.3 million units, and 1.8 percent in 1996, to 16.6 million units, Mr. Bozarth said.
Although economic indicators have been sluggish during the early months of 1995, Mr. Bogatinoff said they remain generally above the comparable 1994 period. Industrial production in January, for instance, was 6.2 percent over the 1994 month.