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Commercial tire, retreading sectors on solid footing

By most industry metrics, the commercial trucking industry — and by direct association, the commercial tire and retreading sector — is on track for a solid year as the North American economy recovers from the pandemic-induced slump throughout most of 2020.

Economists who track the trucking industry are predicting growth overall in trucking activity, although it's a bit inconsistent varying by region and sector.

Those fleets that deal in consumer goods, especially those with last-mile delivery, fared well throughout the pandemic, but others — such as tanker fleets — suffered.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.

Both figures, however, are still shy of the shipment levels recorded in 2019, indicating there's still room for additional improvement.

On the light truck tire side, the USTMA sees aftermarket shipments slipping slightly (0.4%) to 32.8 million units, but this follows 1.2% growth during 2020 as the industry kept busy supplying the boom in last-mile deliveries as consumers tapped into the home-delivery business.

OE shipments of light truck tires are expected to rise 3.6% in 2021 to 5.6 million units, offsetting to a degree an 8.7% drop in shipments to vehicle makers last year.

Much, if not all, the extra demand for light and medium truck tires was filled by imports, according to Tire Business' analysis of the USTMA shipment and production data and the U.S. Department of Commerce import/export trade data.

Domestic production in both categories sank by double digits last year, according to USTMA data. Imports of light truck tires grew by 4.5%, but imports of medium/heavy truck tires fell 11.2%. However, with domestic production of nearly 22%, this still helped fill demand.

Tire Business