SINGAPORE — The U.S. tire industry will be buoyed by the federal government's approval of the "infrastructure investment and jobs act," according to Anne Forristall Luke, president and CEO of the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA).
Speaking in a question-and-answer format posted recently by the International Rubber Study Group, Ms. Luke said the act — which is intended to drive up investment in modernized infrastructure and energy-efficient transport across the country — "lays the groundwork for a future where virtually every tire enters the circularity market, and advances in tire technology make our cars more efficient and even safer."
The recently agreed legislation includes around $550 billion in new federal investment in U.S. transportation, internet and other infrastructure, and is expected to add around 2 million jobs a year over the course of the decade.
The investment in infrastructure, Ms. Luke added, should lead to "many opportunities for the federal government to expand the scrap tire circularity market that simultaneously help our nation achieve our shared resilience and sustainability goals."
There will, she noted, be measures to increase the use of rubber-modified asphalt as pavement material and tire-derived aggregate as infill for stormwater control systems — as well as federal support for the integration of these materials in new and existing infrastructure.
"Additionally, with the Biden administration's push for electric vehicle expansion, we also see a growing potential for these stronger, efficient and longer-lasting roads," Ms. Luke, the USTMA head since 2015, said.
This should also lead to "an expanded market for advanced tires that can withstand the added weight of an electric vehicle and help it literally go that extra mile," she added.
In the IRSG interview Forristall Luke also shared her perspective on opportunities and challenges in the U.S. tire manufacturing industry.
The U.S. tire industry is recovering steadily from the impact of the pandemic, with most USTMA member companies reporting strong first-half earnings.
As examples, Ms Luke said Bridgestone Corp. had reported a "quicker-than-expected" fiscal turnaround, while Goodyear recently reported that its volumes are close to pre-pandemic levels across several markets.
Hankook Tire & Technology Co. Ltd. also reported marked improvements in operating income and sales, based in part on business recoveries in North America and Europe, the USTMA executive pointed out.
In its latest forecasts, USTMA projected U.S. tire shipments of 336.1 million units in 2021, compared with 303.2 million units in 2020 and 332.7 million units in 2019 — its first forecast above 2019 levels since the start of the pandemic.
Alongside recovery, Ms. Luke said U.S. tire makers are "creating a future as mobility solution providers as they invest in EV companies and AV solutions, while increasing the use of sustainable materials in tire manufacturing."
Meanwhile, she noted, digital transformation is accelerating across the U.S. tire industry with the rollout of 5G technology and the shift to electric and automated vehicles gathering significant traction.
Action on climate is another growing focus, with USTMA members "committed to reducing greenhouse gas emissions throughout a tire's life cycle in many ways," according to the association leader.
Key targets, she stated, include "improved rolling efficiency of new tires, increased re-use and recycling of scrap tires, and even lowering carbon output in the manufacturing process."
The USTMA leader was commenting in an Aug. 27 Q&A, issued as a follow-up to her role as a panelist at the recent World Rubber Summit 2021, organized by the International Rubber Study Group (IRSG).