Continental Tire chief predicts future market trends impacting transportation

Paul Williams, Continental’s executive vice president for truck tires in the Americas, provided a glimpse into the next decade of transportation in North America at last week’s Mid-America Trucking Show (MATS) and said Continental Tire has anticipated market challenges with new products and services.

Along with his predictions about the state of the industry, he spoke about the company’s new product and services.

Williams began his remarks by noting that Continential ranks as the largest automotive supplier in the world and is “solidly positioned as one of the top rubber manufacturers as well. In the Americas, we continued to support our retreading business and now have more than 30 licensed ContiTread outlets in the region.

“To support this growth we doubled our customer service team and increased sales personnel by 20 percent in North America.”

Looking forward, he said that Continental’s emphasis on research and development allows the company “to not just respond to but anticipate market demands,” and then explained how Continental’s tire division is prepared for several transportation challenges for the next decade and beyond.

 

Public transit

Americans took a record 10 billion public transit trips in 2013 and public transit outpaced vehicle miles traveled, Williams said, and predicted that urban bus and motor coach “will initially be the fastest-growing public transit areas.”

Launched at MATS were two new tires for the people segment: the Conti Urban HA3 for city buses and the Conti Coach HA3 for long-distance motor coaches.

The Conti Urban HA3 is an all-position and steer tire with a specialized compound for prolonged mileage performance with “excellent driving characteristics,” he said. Available now in sizes 275/70R22.5 (22/32” tread depth) and 305/70R22.5 (23/32” tread depth), the tire Conti Urban HA3 features an increased sidewall gauge and durable new casing construction, as well as a quiet tread pattern.

For longer distance traffic in heavier vehicles, such as motor coaches and large RVs, the all-new Conti Coach HA3 “is optimized for outstanding wet handling, mileage, durability and fuel efficiency, Williams pointed out. “Quiet running tread and an optimized footprint give the new tire enhanced ride comfort and durability.”

This tire is intended for steer or all-position use. It, too, is available now in sizes 255/70R22.5 and 275/70R22.5 (15/32” tread depth) and 315/80R22.5 (17/32” tread depth).

 

Cargo and shipping

“With the estimated opening of the Panama Canal expansion in 2015, Continental believes port shipments can double in the next 10 years,” said Williams.

 

Construction

The Obama Administration has proposed a 2015 budget that includes $10 billion over four years covering highway, rail and port projects. Next year, American construction is expected to increase by 10 percent for airports and terminals; six percent for bridges and overpasses; and five percent for heavy and light rail, Williams said.

“Medium duty trucks and Class 4 and 5 trucks will take on a great deal of this work – but until recently, the tire choices in this market were limited to ‘one size fits all.’ Continental has already begun expanding its portfolio of 19.5” truck tires by increasing the fuel efficiency of our original equipment tires, the HSR and HDR.

“We remain the only tire manufacturer to meet both the EPA greenhouse gas regulations for truck tires and the load and speed ratings specified for these vehicles.”

Continental introduced its first specialized tire for this segment, the Conti TerraPlus HD3. Available later this spring in 225/70R19.5 size, it is a specialized, aggressive tread pattern with open shoulder, 19/32nds tread depth and an off-road belt package.

It has been designed especially for the North American market.

This tire also features chip and chunk resistant compounding and a deep lug pattern for optimal traction in off-road, mud and gravel conditions.

 

Shifting traffic patterns

The new generation of urban workers, Generation Y, is in an anti-commuting mindset and the nation’s largest cities are actually growing faster than the rest of America, Williams observed. “This gives rise to urban areas that are growing closer together – but the same trucks that deliver goods to these cities are also expected to travel long distances without changing the tires.

“Continental anticipated this market segment several years ago and pioneered the multi-application tire with our Hybrid line.’

New to the line is the Hybrid HS3 a steer and all-position tire, designed for both regional and long-haul performance. Available now in size 295/75R22.5 and load range H, the tire “bridges the performance gap for fleets that need to use the same trucks for both long haul and regional routes without changing the tires,” he explained.

The Conti Hybrid HS3 “offers an application-specific compound for excellent fuel efficiency and mileage, along with the integrated durability features” of Continental’s third generation casing design and the company’s exclusive Visual Alignment Indicators.

 

Environment

Climate change and sustainability remain at the forefront for both Continental and the tire industry, said Williams. The market demand for retreads, which use approximately one-third the raw materials of a new tire, is expected to increase by nearly 17 percent by 2018.

Continental is pioneering raw material research with its project to industrialize low environmental impact natural rubber from dandelions in Germany, where a new pilot facility is under construction..

 “We predict that as a companion to the mandate for EPA to develop new emissions standards for trucks by 2016, SmartWay rolling resistance limits for truck tires will eventually become tougher. Because the SmartWay tire standards are relative to the best-selling new tires, the ante will eventually be upped as the market shifts to adopt fuel-efficient tires in the top spots.

Also introduced at MATS was the new Conti EcoPlus HS3 steer and all-position tire, which completes Continental’s line of new third generation fuel efficient truck tires introduced for North America, noted Williams.

The tire offers a 10 percent reduction in rolling resistance, as well as a 12 percent increase in mileage over the previous generation long-haul steer tire. Advances include an advanced decoupler groove design and a “flap style” stone bumper system – both of which result in advanced life and retreadability, he said.

The Conti EcoPlus HS3 comes to market in early summer in size 295/75R22.5, load range H construction with 19/32” tread depth and the Visual Alignment Indicators.

 

Technologies

Traffic congestion remains an increasing problem in America – growing six percent last year. In order to reduce this economic drain, Williams believes that connected vehicles and automated technologies will be enabled in the next decade to allow for wireless traffic sensing, road hazards and even inspections.

“Continental engineers are already testing tire sensors that can eventually contribute to vehicle to vehicle (V2V) communication and vehicle to infrastructure (V2X), by sensing the vehicle’s load. Future tire sensors will also be able to interface with the truck’s safety and data systems.

He announced that Continental has made “a significant upgrade” to its ContiPressureCheck tire pressure monitoring system with automated trailer learning capabilities – “an important enhancement to the system which increases ease of use and represents a significant technological advancement.”

 

Trucking fleet needs

Meanwhile, Continental continues to evolve its offerings for trucking fleets who “increasingly demand a partner, not just a supplier of tires,” said Williams. Its Commercial Vehicle Tire group has been restructured with the addition of strategic account managers dedicated to medium to large fleets in North America.

Continental will also support its fleets on the road with the addition of mechanical service in its emergency breakdown programs, TrukFix and ContiFleet, and with a new announcement of partnership with Love’s Travel Stops to carry Continental and General branded truck tires at nearly 200 Love’s Truck Tire Care centers nationwide.

 

Loading