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Published on April 9, 2007

Shortage: big tires, 'young blood'

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Opinion

AKRON (April 9, 2007) — You don't have to think too hard to figure out what the overriding topic of conversation was at the recent Off–the-Road (OTR) Tire Conference sponsored by the Tire Industry Association (TIA).


That topic was the continuing short supply of giant OTR tires and the havoc this has created in the tire industry and for firms that rely on these behemoths for the operation of their heavy machinery and equipment.


Lots of giant earthmoving vehicles at mines and construction sites are sitting idle for lack of tires, forcing tire dealers and tire makers to tell customers: “Sorry, we don't have any tires in stock.”


Speakers at the event in Rancho Bernardo, Calif., near San Diego, also exposed a shortage of another kind that may be even more disconcerting: the lack of young people entering the OTR tire industry.


This came up as a younger person during the meeting commented: “I don't see a lot of young blood here.”


Unlike the issue with OTR tire supply—which can be rectified by building new factories and boosting existing capacities—attracting young people into what many consider to be a limited-future, unglamorous manufacturing business is likely to be more difficult.


It's not something that can be changed simply through bricks and mortar.


To get more young people interested in a career in the OTR tire industry, those already in the business have to take steps to make that happen. How? By recruiting young people into the industry, training and promoting those already in the business and showing how exciting—yes, exciting—and vital OTR tires truly are.


As one tire executive stated bluntly, “The dealerships I see now don't seem to be training a whole lot of young people for the OTR tire industry.”


Nor does this executive understand why this is the case, considering how much the industry has changed in recent years.


“With a Caterpillar, you drive the machines with joy sticks and all that kind of stuff,” he said. “I would think the technology that's developing within the OTR industry should attract some young people.”


It should. But it isn't, judging by the average age of those attending TIA's annual giant tire conference.


What's happening in OTR tires is no different than that taking place in other mature industries. In automotive service, for example, it's estimated there are only two or three new techs entering the field to replace every 10 who are retiring.


Still, that provides little comfort for those looking to replace knowledgeable OTR tire workers nearing retirement.


If tire dealers want to ensure their dealerships remain competitive, they should start planning now to attract the next generation of OTR tire workers—or face an uncertain future.

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