The Italy-based Trelleborg may not be the first company Western Canadian farmers think of when it comes to tractor tires. However, Trelleborg’s subsidiary, Mitas (based in the Czech Republic), is a major tire supplier to John Deere, Case New Holland and AGCO and has opened two U.S. factories.
Overall, Trelleborg bills itself as the “world leader in engineered polymer solutions that seal, damp and protect critical applications in demanding environments.” Tire manufacturing is just one of the company’s business areas. This area, Trelleborg wheel systems, is led by Paolo Pompei. Tires for agricultural use make up more than 70 per cent of Pompei’s business.
In the tire business, Pompei said at Agritechnica in Hanover, Germany in November, “what is really making Trelleborg a different player than any other competitors in our industry is really our manufacturing footprint. We have 17 factories producing our tires and wheels, located on three continents.”
“We don’t believe you are able to support the local markets if you don’t have a local presence in terms of manufacturing facilities,” Pompei said. Trelleborg has factories in Iowa and South Carolina. While North America is the biggest agricultural market in the world, Pompei said, “Europe is really advanced compared to the United States when we talk about tire technology.”
New Pneutrac tires
Piero Mancinelli, Trelleborg’s R&D director agriculture and forestry tires, referred to Trelleborg’s new PneuTrac tires as “tracks on wheels.” Pneutrac is a hybrid solution that merges track technology with radial tires.
Trelleborg’s press kit says, “Tractors equipped with PneuTrac are on average 20 per cent lighter than conventional tracks with less stress on soil.” As well as the lighter load, Mancinelli said, “It is also important to consider the time that the load is acting. And on a track solution it is much longer time.”
PneuTrac tires’ sidewalls feature new CupWheel technology. The Omega design of the sidewall (named for the shape of the Greek symbol Ω), Trelleborg says, “helps the tire carcass to sustain load, simultaneously providing flexibility and an extra-wide footprint at very low pressure, resulting in very low soil compaction.”
While conventional track lugs are most efficient near the rear, PneuTrac “gives lug efficiency for the entire length of its footprint,” the company says.
“Also,” Mancinelli said, “we introduced inter-lug terraces to add self-cleaning performance.”
Trelleborg says PneuTrac tires offer lateral stability similar to a track solution. These tires were developed specifically for orchards and vineyards where steep terrain is common, roots and vines can be delicate and rows are typically narrow.
At the German press conference, Mancinelli pronounced the “P” in “Pneutrac,” (and also the “n”). That’s something you probably won’t hear in the North American market.
Low tire pressure helps to reduce soil compaction. But how low can your tire pressure go without increasing slippage, affecting tire performance, or compromising efficiency? That will depend on soil, humidity, temperature, operation and tire configuration.
Trelleborg wants to help farmers find the point where they can efficiently minimize tire pressure using SmartConnect sensors. Two sensors on each wheel transmit information on slippage, temperature and speed straight to the cab via wireless and Bluetooth technology. When slippage increases between the tire and the rim, an alarm is sent to the cab. “With this information,” said Mancanelli, “the farmer can of course react by changing the speed or changing the depth of the plowing operation.”
Farmers can reduce speed when tires start to slip, but many would prefer to increase tire pressure instead. While that feature’s not available in Trelleborg tires now, Mancenelli said, “that is the direction.” In the future, he said, “smart tires will be positioned at a different level of performance,” and targeted to different customers at different price points.
GPS capability is also built into the sensors, which, Trelleborg says, can help protect the machine against theft.
“We have to start to look at the tire like a sort of big sensor,” Mancanelli said, “because the tire is the connection between the performance of the tractor and the needs of the terrain.”
The third new development Trelleborg brought to the stage at Agritechnica was more about packaging than performance. With YourTire, Trelleborg offers customers an opportunity to customize their new tires with their name, using an on-line order form.
This is important, said Lorenzo Ciferri, Trelleborg’s VP of marketing and communications, because tires are “one of the more visible elements of the tractors while they’re performing operations in the field.” For farmers, he says, this is the “emotional component.”
Different brands for different fans
Trelleborg offers four brands for four different market segments. Paolo Pompei, business area president of Trelleborg Wheel Systems, said this structure provides “one-stop shopping for our customers.” This also allows the company to reach premium customers with special needs and larger budgets while also offering products for budget-conscious buyers with more basic needs.
Trelleborg tires are the company’s premium tires, “delivering higher performance than a standard tire,” Pompei said. Marketing for these tires is based on tire innovation and performance.
Mitas tires, Pompei said, are “supporting everyday market needs.” These products are marketed based on their quality and reliability.
Maximo and Cultor tires are Trelleborg’s budget brands, designed for the price-competitive markets and sold with minimum service support. (Maximo tires are not sold in the North American market.)