Tire shipments are projected to drop more than 7 percent in 2009 following a nearly 9 percent drop in 2008, according to the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Total 2009 tire shipments are projected to decline approximately 21 million units to 261 million, a level last experienced in 1993 and approximately 60 million units fewer than the 321 million unit peak in 2000.

The decrease in tire shipments reflects the continued erosion of consumer confidence, higher unemployment, depressed auto sales, a decline in vehicle miles traveled and downward revisions in domestic economic conditions for both the consumer and commercial sectors.

A turnaround is projected to begin in 2010, in line with economic forecasts, where the industry is expected to realize a modest recovery nearing the 270 million unit level.

RMA's Tire Market Analysis Committee forecast for commercial tires for 2008 include:

• Original Equipment Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires - For 2008, this category decreased by 17.6 percent to 3.8 million units, attributable to the larger than anticipated economic slowdown in the commercial sector. Given the further decreases in economic activity forecasted for this sector in 2009, another nearly 30 percent decline to approximately 2.6 million units is anticipated. However, the economic rebound projected for 2010 along with pent up demand for vehicles is projected to result in a net gain of approximately 600,000 units increase in shipments.

• Replacement Medium/Wide-Base/Heavy On-Highway Commercial Truck Tires - This market declined to 14.8 million units in 2008, a decrease of nearly 1.7 million units or 10.4 percent. The market will realize another decrease of 1.6 million units in 2009 as fewer goods will be transported as a result of the economic slowdown and protracted recovery. But given the economic rebound forecast for 2010, this market is expected to increase to nearly 14 million units.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association is the national trade association for the rubber products industry. Its members include more than 80 companies that manufacture various rubber products, including tires, hoses, belts, seals, molded goods, and other finished rubber products.