"Rather than a shift (in popularity), I think we're seeing a steady growth in awareness of where solid tires can help cut costs and improve profitability. Industries where we see the heaviest use of solid tires, like warehouses, logistics centers and waste management sites, all benefit from tires that last longer, are puncture-proof and function well in two- and three-shift environments."
Continental Tire the Americas said it has not seen a major overall shift to solid tires in recent years but said solid tires make up a significant portion of its industrial tire business.
"Specific industries where applications are harsh and punctures happen often have been moving toward solid tires. There are certain benefits that fleets receive by changing to solid tires, such as stability, puncture resistance and low maintenance, but there are sometimes trade-offs as well," a Conti spokesperson said.
The improving U.S. economy seems to be a key driver in growth in specialty tires.
"With the explosive growth of warehouse and logistics industries, the growth in the need for solid industrial tires is self-evident," Mr. Lopes said. "The stability, long life, high load-carrying capacity and puncture-proof nature of solid tires make them the perfect solution to support these businesses where cutting costs is critical."
Other industries, such as construction and demolition, are increasingly using solid tires over pneumatic tires, Mr. Lopes said, noting there also is growing demand for solid tires in waste handling, recycling, scrap metal yards, steel mills and landscaping, where vehicles must traverse broken pavement, rubble, debris and rock.
"I've been in this business a long time, and we used to sell a lot more pneumatic tires than we do now. We sell a lot more solid tires than we used to," said Benton Hood, president of Mitchell Industrial Tire Co. Inc. (MITCO), estimating that about 90 percent of his tire sales are solid vs. pneumatic.
"It used to be about 33 percent of what we sold was pneumatics but not anymore. It's reduced quite a bit."
He said the shift to solid tires is based on customers' desire to eliminate downtime related to flat tires.
In extreme conditions, solid tires will outlast pneumatics as well as foam-filled tires, so they provide the best total cost of ownership in high-intensity applications, Mr. Lopes said.
Specialty tire and track maker Camso Ltd. said solid tires are growing in popularity beyond just skid- steer loaders, noting on its website that solid tires are now viable for other construction equipment, including telescopic handlers, compact wheel loaders and full-sized wheel loaders.
MITCO's Mr. Hood said construction companies are big adopters of solid tires, especially for telehandlers.
The economy has helped boost the solid tire trend for forklift, construction, trailers and even airport operations, he said.
"We manufacture tires for jetways, and they were always pneumatic tires," he said, noting that many airports have switched to solid tires out of safety concerns.
"We have manufactured and sold a tremendous number of jetway tires and they have changed the configuration again to a solid press-on tire,…which I think is a better technology for that piece of equipment."
The engineering of apertures or holes into the solid tires is playing a major role in enhancing the operator comfort and the popularity of highly specialized tires, according to Camso, noting the price is now similar to that of foam-filled tires.
Group Michelin is in the process of acquiring Camso and combining its activities with its own OTR activities to create what it claims will the leading OTR/industrial tire group worldwide.