FINDLAY, Ohio — Tariffs, "last mile" delivery and the emergence of smart technologies are among trends that will impact the commercial trucking business for years to come, Cooper Tire & Rubber Co.'s Gary Schroeder told those attending K&M Tire Inc.'s virtual dealer conference.
Understanding industry changes and trends can help tire dealers find opportunity, Mr. Schroeder, executive director of Cooper's global truck and bus tire business, said during a presentation at "Keep on Rollin' 2021," wholesaler K&M Tire's virtual dealer conference held Jan. 20-21.
"I think 2020 has really shown how important the trucking industry is to our country," he said.
He said with all of the increase in demand placed on the trucking industry, the sector "really didn't skip a beat."
The U.S. market for new commercial tires is around 26 million units, about 55% of which are produced domestically.
"When you kind of break down the truck tire market, about half of them are sold through a replacement channel," he said. "The other half is sold through national account programs directly to fleets, to original equipment manufacturers (OEM) and, to a small extent, the government."
He said most of the national accounts, OEM and government tires are sourced from companies within the U.S., which means most of the import tires are being sold in the aftermarket.
"We hear all of this talk about tariffs, and if tariffs continue to stay in place, or they grow, … it could present a very challenging environment."
Super Regional routes
Changes in trucking over the last few years have boosted "super regional" routes among trucking companies. Mr. Schroeder pointed to the use of electronic logging devices (ELDs), hour/service regulation changes and driver shortages for this growth.
"A super regional route is becoming bigger and bigger. It addresses a number of these things," he said.
Having a regional route also is less stressful on a driver and his or her family than multi-day long hauls.
"It allows drivers to spend more nights at home, and you're able to attract more people to this occupation," he said.
He added more Class 8 trucks are being produced with automatic transmissions, which further opens up the talent pool to find new drivers.
Super Regional tires are sort of a cross between long-haul and regional applications. Super Regional tires are designed to handle highway and street miles.
When talking about Cooper's super regional tire, the Cooper Work AWD, he noted most super-regional tires don't have a lot of void, partly because the tread depth is shorter than a long-haul tire, but also because there is siping throughout the tire, and a shallower tread depth is needed to make the tire more durable.
"I think you're going to see more and more tire manufacturers coming out with this super-regional type tire to fit this application."