FRANLIN LAKES, N.J.Doing things the same old way at times seems to be a mantra for the tire industry, although technology certainly rears its shiny little head periodically to make sure you're paying attention.
Getting beyond that complacency has been the challenge for Scott Pearson, 53, a guy who grew up in Akron around tires and trucks and who will quickly admit with that alacrity of someone used to dirt under the fingernails, Yeah, I guess the tire industry's in my blood.
He's co-owner, along with his sister Pam Pearson, of Tire Equipment Corp. (TEC) and Fleet Equipment Corp.family-run businesses founded by his parents, Rick and Maryann Pearson, who are still actively involved. Scott Pearson has seen his share of guys busting tires with the joie de vivre of someone who has always done it this way.
So when the topic of new technology in the commercial tire industry rolls around, he broaches it like someone facing a steep climb with holes in his shoes.
TEC manufactures and distributes the Golden Tool line of truck tire mounting and dismounting tools for tires sized from 17.5 inches up to the largest wide-base super singles. It also offers a bead-locking tool it claims helps prevent bead damage when changing truck tires. The Golden lineModels 100, 200 and the approximately five-year-old 300originates from TEC's 50,000-sq.-ft. Spruce Pine, N.C., plant.
The company, which is based in Franklin Lakes in northern New Jersey, outsources componentslike the tool's handles and castingsfrom U.S. manufacturers then assembles and ships from the North Carolina facility.
Mr. Pearson said, It's a bit convoluted, but in addition to that site, we run multiple corporations out of multiple locations.
While TEC has been in business about 24 years, Mr. Pearson noted that Fleet Equipment, which manufactures truck tire service trucks, is marking its 50th anniversary this year.
The technological trends Mr. Pearson sees in the industry are more common in the automotive sector, he told Tire Business while on his mobile phone as he sat in the parking lot of a commercial tire dealership.
There's no shortage of automated tire changing machines and new innovations in tire changing, but they seem to be more prevalent in the automobile end of the business because of the technology in wheel diameters, sidewall profiles and the changing technology in that world, he said.
Truck tire technology is changing, too, but not at the rapid pace of automobile technology, from what I see. The super singles that take the place of two 11R225 tires...are becoming more popular, but haven't taken over like I thought they would when they were introduced.
In Europe, super singles caught on and are more the standard, but (aren't catching on) as rapidly in the U.S.
Mr. Pearson said he believes the demand in truck tire-changing technology has not really occurred like it would have if those (super single) tires had become more commonplace.
But one somewhat new wrinkle he's observed in the industry is a rim clamp truck tire changer outfitted in a van that can perform tire changes in a fleet yard, remote site or even at a roadside.
This approach forsakes someone having to get out a hammer or tire iron to mount or dismount tiresa kind of mobile shop on wheelsalthough Mr. Pearson acknowledged, that hasn't seemed to have caught on all that much either.
Still, for many at commercial dealerships it's still swinging a hammer to break the beadeven though you're not supposed to, you still see a lot of people doing that, he said.
So why isn't the truck tire industry more prone to innovation?
Mr. Pearson typifies it as that do-it-like-we've-always-done-it mindset, which stymies change. And change, he added, isn't always cheapit can be a lot more expensive.
When, for instance, TEC introduced its Golden Toolso named because of its aluminum and bronze construction, giving it a Midas-like hueMr. Pearson found some in the industry who rolled their eyes and said, 'I'll just do it like we always have.' Part of that meme came from the tool's higher cost vs. regular old tire irons. Some changed their minds after a demo, he said.
The company boasts that its Golden Toolwhich has been on the market in various configurations for 20 yearsis the quickest way to demount and mount a tubeless truck tire without damaging the bead, while also preserving the retreadability of a tire. A couple of quick moves and it's off, Mr. Pearson explained, adding, yet you still see it in a cap shop, day in and day out, guys swinging hammers and wielding tire irons, sometimes getting knocked in the shins when a tire spoon slips and flies off.
He pushes the benefits of the Golden Tooland other similar technologiesby telling folks that it can extend a career and prevent injuries without damaging beads.... It just makes life easier, which is what most successful innovations do, I guess.
TEC does not make or market tire changers/balancers, Mr. Pearson said. We're just trying to spread the word about the 300 tool...that's our newest mousetrap.
The company markets to commercial dealers through major distributors nationwide, in Canada and in South America, Mr. Pearson said.
He chose not to disclose sales of either TEC or Fleet Equipment, but noted that business has been moderatewe're definitely feeling the effects of the economic slowdown. Commercial truck tire service is not at an all-time high, so our sales aren't at an all-time high either at the moment. But it'll come back.
Cheaper fuel costs are helping the bottom line of a lot of fleets, so we expect and hope for a turnaround when it occurs.
Meanwhile, he's on the road promoting his company's product portfolio that aims to make what's a tough job at least a little bit easier. If his efforts will prevent at least one tire buster from getting his or her shins nickedor worseby a tire change gone awry, Mr. Pearson will likely look at it as a golden moment.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6130; Twitter: @SigMikolajczyk