Passing convoys of semitrucks hauling goods on the highway or watching delivery vans roll through your neighborhood, you get the sense that despite the challenges presented by the pandemic, the commercial tire industry is doing OK.
Every industry was impacted negatively in some way by COVID, but the supply chain just doesn't stop. And, because of that, neither do the commercial tire and retreading industries.
Consumers need essential goods — and, let's be honest, many non-essential goods, too. The demand has made prospects for the industry robust, especially in the second half of the year, when more people are vaccinated and more of the U.S. opens back up.
The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) forecasts that replacement market demand for medium/heavy truck tires should rise 2.9% this year to 19.7 million units, after booking a 1.2% increase last year, based on strong second-half business activity.
Original equipment shipments of truck tires are expected to bounce back resoundingly, up 20% to 5.7 million units.
That contrasts with a 27.6% implosion of shipments last year as the North American commercial vehicle industry throttled back production markedly amid the pandemic, according to a new Tire Business report.
The largest commercial dealership in North America is Southern Tire Mart with sales of $1.75 billion, an increase of 22.8% over 2019. The company is also the No. 2 retreader in North America.
While Southern Tire is easily the top commercial tire dealer, Best One Tire & Service L.L.C. made a strong leap to the No. 2 spot with $530 million in sales last year — 20% growth over 2019.
Another good sign for the commercial tire industry is the growth in super-regional routes. More consumers want home delivery, and the last mile of delivery — the most expensive part of the supply chain, by far — will continue to be a hot topic.
Despite the costs — especially with consumers demanding cheap or free shipping — e-commerce sales continue to grow. In the second quarter of 2020, while total U.S. retail sales were down 3.5% from 2019, e-commerce sales increased 44.5% over 2019, recent U.S. Census Bureau data show.
While servicing delivery fleets is a boon now, the real interest will be watching the tire manufacturers. Super-regional tires are a paradox of sorts. The tires need to be durable to handle curbs, potholes and constant starting and stopping, but they also need to have great traction in severe weather. It will be fun to watch the reaction to demand from a engineering standpoint.
Despite the troubles of the world — and even a pandemic — the commercial tire industry finds new ways to stay strong.
The industry just keeps on truckin'.