Bridgestone has been designing and manufacturing off-the-road tyres for more than 70 years. During this time the company has built up a leading market position and today supplies a complete range of off-the-road products and services to mining, construction, highway service and port customers around the world.
Bridgestone’s OTR division has been run as a separate unit from the passenger car and truck-bus activities since 1989.This has enabled Bridgestone to focus more strongly on the OTR market segment than most other manufacturers and develop diversified products for specific requirements, meeting customer demand for consistent high-quality tyres all over the world.
This leadership is founded on Bridgestone’s advanced tyre technologies and recently, on two particular aspects of innovation: computer-aided design (CAD) and tyre development at the molecular level.
Great progress in CAD has enabled Bridgestone to develop its Grand Unified Tyre Design Technology (GUTT®), an automatic tyre simulation and design method that has changed the conventional approach to tyre construction and helped produce extremely durable tyres. It has also simplified tyre development processes and shortened development times.
At the same time, Bridgestone has continued to accumulate knowledge of tyres at the molecular level, helping to optimize the mixture ratio and reaction between carbon, silica and rubber. This science has not only led to the development of more environment-friendly tyres – notably Bridgestone’s Ecopia tyres for passenger cars and commercial vehicles which reduce fuel consumption through lower rolling resistance without compromising overall tyre performance – but has also successfully extended tread life for off-the-road tyres. With its latest technologies and capability to optimize compound mixes, Bridgestone is able to develop different tyre specifications to suit specific TKPH requirements.
The company also continues to invest large sums in OTR tyre research and development in order to improve product quality and performance. For example, Bridgestone plants employ sophisticated technologies such as X-Ray and supersonic inspection devices to assure tyre quality.
Growing demand for larger OTR tyres for mining
Bridgestone OTR tyres are manufactured at the company’s Shimonoseki, Hofu and Kitakyushu plants in Japan. Increased global industrial production, particularly in Asia in recent years, has led to increased demand for mined and quarried minerals, with a consequent increase in demand for mining and construction vehicles. Super-large heavy-payload trucks of up to 400 tons have proliferated. Kitakyushu, opened in 2009, was constructed to respond to this growing world demand for large and ultra-large OTR tyres which Shimonoseki, already the world’s largest OTR tyre plant, could no longer meet.
Similarly, the new Aiken County (South Carolina, USA) plant currently under construction will help meet increased demand for large and ultra-large OTR tyres from mining and quarrying industries in the Americas. Moving forward, Bridgestone will build a production system that can continually respond rapidly to changes in market demand trends and supply customers with world-class quality products on a timely basis.
Special needs of construction and port industries
Bridgestone also supplies growing numbers of OTR tyres to the worldwide construction and port industries. With more than 35,000 new wheel loaders manufactured every year for the construction industry, in addition to other vehicles, Bridgestone has created a strong presence at construction sites where reliability and durability are essential. Bridgestone's VSNT and VSDT L-4 and L-5 tyres are designed to optimize traction of wheel loaders, with special tread patterns that keep their grip on surfaces even when 75% worn, and unique rock-ejecting nubs that keep the grooves clear of obstructions. These and other innovations make Bridgestone tyres the favourite of operators everywhere.
Demand for OTR tyres has also grown strongly in ports, with worldwide container traffic increasing by about 8% annually in recent years. With the advent of 24-hour-a-day port operations and heavier payloads, Bridgestone has developed highly durable, reliable deep-groove VCHD radial tyres for straddle carriers and VCHS radial tires for container handlers.
The new VCHR is Bridgestone’s latest evolution in straddle carrier tyres. An extended tyre life, less tyre noise and improved driving comfort obtained by reducing vibrations are Bridgestone’s latest developments to suit port customers’ demand.