President Barack Obama has signed the highway bill Congress approved Dec. 3, ushering in a regulation that independent tire dealers and distributors register tires at the point-of-sale.
It's the nation's first long-term highway bill in more than a decade, and even the president acknowledged, "This bill is not perfect, but it is a commonsense compromise, and an important first step in the right direction." He signed the bill Dec. 4, the same day a previous short-term fix of funding was due to expire.
The bill includes three provisions backed by the Rubber Manufacturers Association: the establishment of minimum wet and dry traction standards; tire registration for sellers not owned or controlled by a tire manufacturer; and the creation of a public tire recall database for consumers.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA) opposed the tire registration language in part because it shifts the liability and cost of registration onto retailers and requires them to turn over their customer information to manufacturers, who increasingly are selling tires direct to consumers.
What remains unknown is the timeline to enforce the registration rule. It's not included in the legislation.
Roy Littlefield, TIA's executive vice president, says there are bills passed years ago still without regulations in force. In other cases the rules have come quickly.
"That timetable will be impacted by many issues, but there is no timetable in the bill."
Littlefield is encouraged however because TIA was successful in adding language to the bill before it was approved. The addition will require a study to examine the feasibility of requiring tire manufacturers to include electronic identification information on every tire, and ensuring all manufacturers use a streamlined format for that information.
TIA had hoped the study could come first, and that tire registration rules would follow, but the U.S. House and Senate conferees deleted that language.
Still, Littlefield says, "This issue is far from resolved."