After 45 years in the off-the-road (OTR) tire industry, Al Chicago is ready for some golf and relaxation.
The longtime president of Purcell Tire & Rubber Co.'s Western States division retired Feb. 29. He said he was looking forward to spending time with family and at his summer home in Pinetop, Ariz. He was replaced by Sam Ungricht, who was named president of the division in January 2007 after Mr. Chicago turned in a year's notice of his retirement to Potosi, Mo.-based Purcell Tire.
``I've been working with him this past year,'' Mr. Chicago said of Mr. Ungricht. ``He's been with us for 28 years so he's been around and he understands our business.''
Mr. Chicago, 66, had worked on OTR special pro-jects since last year. He began his career with Western States Tire in Battle Mountain, Nev., as an OTR tire buster. He was transferred to Silver City, N.M., where he worked as a salesman handling mine accounts.
>From there, Mr. Chicago became manager of a retail/commercial store in El Paso, Texas, before transferring to Tucson, Ariz., to become vice president. After Purcell Tire bought Western States Tire in 1983, it later named Mr. Purcell senior vice president of the Western division in 1992. In 2001 he was promoted to president of the Western division.
``I worked for a great company,'' Mr. Chicago said. ``Everybody says you have to have fun on your job. When you wake up in the morning, you really gotta want to come to work. Well, that's how it's been my whole career.''
Reflecting on his career, Mr. Chicago said he has found the OTR segment of the tire industry to be rewarding and fun. ``The mining people around the world are interesting people because you go out into the field and sell your product face to face,'' he said, adding that he would do it all again if he had to start over.
Mr. Chicago said he's amazed at how tire technology has changed over the years and how tire mileage now can be tracked accurately by computers. He also noted that in his first year as a tire buster, the largest OTR tire was 35 inches, and he thinks OTR tires may surpass today's 63-inch behemoths.
``As long as there are people getting paid to move dirt as quick as they can, the equipment is going to continue to get bigger because they have to haul more dirt faster because of the cost of minerals and dirt and the cost of aggregate,'' he said. ``They have to move it as fast as they can and as much as they can because they're getting paid by the tons, and so the equipment has to get bigger. Therefore, the tires have to get bigger.''
But Mr. Chicago said he thinks there will come a point when transporting OTR tires from factories to job sites may limit how large tire manufacturers can build them.
``Maybe one more time they'll get bigger, maybe into the 69-inch or close to the 70 inch (size),'' he said. ``The transportation costs are so hard because instead of hauling seven or eight tires, you're going to be hauling three or four.''
In the future, Mr. Chicago said he thinks recruiting young people to change OTR tires will continue to be a challenge as many in the younger generation don't want to work out in the elements. He also thinks the current global OTR tire shortage will correct itself in several years and lead to a glut of tires.
``It's hard to foresee that now because there's so few tires, but it's going to happen with all these China manufacturers opening up and the Big 3 adding production,'' Mr. Chicago said, adding that the tire makers then will go back to giving all kinds of warranties and consignments as they did 10 years ago.