AKRON — Will the newly imposed countervailing and antidumping import duty orders on truck and bus tires from China lead to shortages of tires and/or rising prices?
That scenario seems to be more than likely, according to various sources contacted by Tire Business. The big question, however, is: To what extent?
The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association may have presaged a product shortage inadvertently with its latest industry shipment report, issued March 5, which projected a 6.8-percent drop in medium-duty truck/bus shipments this year.
The drop, which translates to 1.5 million units, is tied primarily to the anticipated impact of the higher import duties on China, the No. 1 source of imported truck tires.
Truck tire imports from China last year soared 42.1 percent to 9.22 million units, or more than half of all imports. The increase, however, was inflated by importers' placing extra orders toward year-end to get product on-shore prior to the Trump administration's threatened 15-percent tariffs on billions of dollars' worth of goods from China.
While the administration eventually postponed those tariffs, the moves proved providential when the Department of Commerce handed down in February its decision to impose countervailing and antidumping duty orders on truck and bus tires from China, sources said.
The surplus inventory of these "tariff-beater" imports on hand could serve to fill the gap, at least temporarily, for any shortfalls in new imports, sources indicated.
At this point it's still speculation as to how much the duties — ranging from 20.98 to 63.34 percent countervailing and 9 to 22.57 percent antidumping — will affect imports from China.
It should be noted that the USTMA reports reflect the domestic industry's thoughts on shipments, not demand, which is affected by a spectrum of influences.
According to various sources, trucking activity is expected to keep pace with, if not exceed, that of 2018, which according to American Trucking Associations (ATA) data was 6.6 percent ahead of 2017. The ATA noted, however, that the pace of growth started slowing in the fourth quarter and has been up and down so far in 2018.
According to the ATA, trucks moved 10.8 billion tons of freight in 2017, generating $700 billion in annual revenue. The U.S. trucking industry employs 3.5 million drivers and 4.2 million more in related jobs.
Another indicator of freight growth is registrations of new vehicles. According to IHS Markit, registrations of Class 8 vehicles are expected to rise about 8 percent this year over 2018.