Despite the uncertainties in the construction market, tire makers are optimistic.
"The OE market has started to rebound nicely, so I would anticipate a nice recovery in 2021, possibly double-digit growth," said Shawn Rasey, director of global business development for earthmover tires for Continental Commercial Specialty Tires.
"Like in the mining segment, replacement tire sales for construction products started to climb over Q4 of 2020 and demand seems to be starting out even stronger in 2021, perhaps high single-digit growth."
Besancon noted that some tire dealers are starting to rebuild tire inventories.
"They kind of let them run down. When things get difficult, people get very cautious and right now people are starting to look a little more optimistic about where we're going to be this year," he said.
The tire makers said there hasn't been an issue with construction tire fill rates.
"Generally speaking, fill rates have not been a problem throughout 2020. However as demand has started to increase at such a brisk pace here in early 2021, it may bear watching how this develops as the year wears on," Rasey said.
However, higher raw material costs, along with rising transportation fees, may prompt some tire price increases this year.
"In 2020, OTR pricing held steady for the most part. With large increases in the cost of raw materials and the increase in demand, look for price increases in 2021," predicted Scott Holub, manager of OTR technical services for BKT USA Inc.
"Similar to agriculture, raw material prices and pricing for logistics on those raw materials are on the rise, which will have an impact on tire pricing," Hawkins said.
The construction tire OEMs said they are taking steps to address the trends in the market.
"The biggest trends/issues we see happening in the market are that end-users have become very market savvy—this is not new—but the customers really want to focus on the value they are getting for their money on tires," Besancon said.
Yokohama recently consolidated its OTR tire sales operations and brands under the new Yokohama Off-Highway Tires Americas division.
"By doing this we can offer value products and the higher end, more performance-priced products in a complete market portfolio that we see will be attractive to most customers. Now instead of trying to find multiple brands to suit their needs (and budgets), they can rely on one supplier to help them across the board. ... The more we can make things simple for the customer, the better off its going to be for everybody," Besancon said.
"In an ever-increasingly competitive environment for contractors, reducing costs, improving productivity and controlling health- and safety-related incidents on site are major drivers," Rasey added.
"Our focus at Continental has been on bringing new technology and integrated fleet solutions to contractors to address these very issues. We've seen this development coming for several years, and with the events of the past year it brings these challenges into even more clear focus.
"Our ContiPressureCheck system is just one way that we are integrating new technology into our fleet management approach. It allows remote monitoring of fleet performance enhanced with better and more accurate data to help end-users, dealers and Continental to address these critical concerns in real time," Rasey said.
"With BKT having our own tire mold factory and a carbon black plant, we are able to respond quickly to the changing needs in the market and grow our product line offerings to meet the demands of OTR tire dealers and end-users," Holub said.