In an exclusive interview with Campbell Metcalfe — his first since being named CEO of Triangle Tire USA Inc. — Mr. Metcalfe told Tire Business that the tire maker is focusing heavily on servicing the needs of the OTR and TBR markets, which continue to grow.
Logistics challenges remain plentiful, he said, and the company still hopes to revive plans to build two tire plants in North Carolina — originally announced nearly four years ago — in the future.
How would you describe business thus far in 2021?
Our business in the OTR and ST (specialty trailer) tire segments has been strong, only hampered by global logistics constraints.
Triangle is the fourth largest OTR tire producer worldwide with a substantial number of fitments with heavy equipment manufacturers. For instance, Triangle is a top three global supplier to Caterpillar. Our OE presence and product quality are giving our dealers confidence to aggressively promote Triangle OTR radial and bias tires to their customers.
ST tire sales have been strong industrywide with more people seeking outdoor activities. Triangle has placed an emphasis on ST tire development for decades, and our plants are working overtime to keep up with demand.
As with our OTR tires, our dealers are bullish on Triangle ST tires due to the product quality; no dealer wants a call from a customer who was headed to his favorite bass lake but is stuck on the side of the road with a damaged trailer tire.
Concerning the TBR market, the first half of the year started slower than expected; however, business did pick up toward the end of the first quarter. The second quarter was only hampered by supply constraints. As the supply increases, we anticipate a growth year in the TBR sector.
We anticipate the TBR market to be robust throughout the rest of 2021 and into 2022. As the economy continues to grow throughout this period, demand for transportation services will expand.
There are, however, headwinds — recovering from the COVID-related plant closures and the continuing logistics challenges being faced in getting product distributed have caused shortages of TBR products. The demand is strong, but the shortage of product will quite possibly "mask" the true potential for growth.
Triangle sells very few passenger and light truck tires in the U.S. due to high import tariffs and duties.
What is the one thing you would like your customers to know about how your company has tackled the challenges brought on by the pandemic?
Like all Chinese manufacturers, Triangle was hit hard at the beginning of the virus outbreak. We were closed for three weeks for the New Year and two more weeks to implement safety protocols.
After the shutdown period, Triangle — after taking proper safety precautions — began ramping up production again. By March 2020, our four plants were operating at near-full capacity and began operating at full capacity later that spring.
Taking early aggressive safety protocols in our plants enabled Triangle to return to full production much sooner than many of our competitors.