Ding Yuhua (right), Triangle Tire chairman, talks with Tony Copeland, North Carolina Dept. of Commerce secretary (center) and Phil Berger, state senator. Triangle Tire USA VP of Sales Rick Phillips and CEO Manny Cicero are in the background behind Ding. -

Ding Yuhua (right), Triangle Tire chairman, talks with Tony Copeland, North Carolina Dept. of Commerce secretary (center) and Phil Berger, state senator. Triangle Tire USA VP of Sales Rick Phillips and CEO Manny Cicero are in the background behind Ding.

For any commercial truck tire dealers and manufacturers, remember the first quarter of this year? No? I’m guessing that is the result of selective memory. It was pretty slow, and that is an understatement.

Market demand has picked up since then, to the point where shipments in the U.S. will be higher this year compared to last year. Much higher.

The turnaround may have started when the International Trade Commission voted against imposing tariffs on truck and bus tires manufactured in China and imported into the U.S. last February. But increased imports from China wouldn’t increase shipments if not for demand.

The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) predicts domestic replacement truck tire shipments will finish 2017 at 19.4 million units, not only a 4.3% increase over last year, but also a record.

New players are taking notice. The Dec. 19, 2017 announcement by Triangle Tyre Co. Ltd. to build a new consumer tire plant in Edgecombe County, N.C., will lead to two plants built in two phases. The first is consumer tire production. The second, to be completed by 2023, is a truck tire plant, to be built next to the first facility.

The importance of Phase Two is not surprising. Earlier this year, Triangle Tire USA hired Rick Phillips away from Yokohama Tire Corp. to be its vice president of sales. Phillips was instrumental in the building of Yokohama's new commercial truck tire plant in West Point, Miss.

When Hankook Tire America Corp. held the grand opening of its consumer tire plant in Clarksville, Tenn., in October, future medium truck tire production was mentioned to me as a possibility by more than one Hankook employee (although Hankook Tire Co. Ltd. CEO Seung Hwa Suh said the company is not looking beyond the first two phases, which center on consumer tire production).

USTMA also estimates domestic original equipment truck tire shipments will be up 8% this year. With overall demand for truck tires at an all-time high, maybe we’ll see more manufacturers building truck tire plants in the U.S.

Editor's note: Bob Ulrich is the editor of Modern Tire Dealer, a sister publication of Work Truck.

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