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Tire registration and legislation

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Tire registration and legislation

Legislation should be the last resort when attempting to solve problems. Legislation is the lazy man’s way of getting things done. Legislation causes more grief in the long term than common sense does.

Before you start searching the Internet for the authors of these hopefully wise or humorous or inspirational (or all three!) quotes, let me save you the trouble: They are mine. Within the next year, the issue of voluntary vs. mandatory tire registration may come up on the Congressional calendar, and it is important you understand what is at stake here.

Tire registration has been voluntary for more than 30 years. Tire manufacturers want to make it mandatory, because in the event of a tire recall, they want to account for all the defective or “allegedly” defective tires before accidents and, by extension, lawsuits begin to happen. They consider registration rates too low to accomplish this.

They do not take into account the responsibility of the person buying the tires. That simply does not matter. Making it mandatory for tire dealers to collect the information at the point of sale rather than leaving it up to the consumer to report solves their problems. And it helps keep their customers safe from themselves.

I, on the other hand, believe taking responsibility for your own actions or, in this case, inactions, and the consequences that result are of the utmost importance. They should never be dismissed without thought.

Should tire registration be mandatory? In other words, what do we gain and what do we lose if it is? In the event of a recall, the chance to get all the nonconforming tires off the road increases. That’s absolutely a good thing.

Putting this responsibility on the shoulders of tire dealers will add both work and cost to their businesses. Benjamin Franklin was right — time really is money. Software upgrades also would be necessary for many.

However, if the benefit is great enough, then it is neither good or bad but necessary. For example, smoking rules and regulations are necessary.

People should decide for themselves whether or not they should smoke. My father and mother were heavy smokers, and my dad died of cancer, very likely the result of his choice. I asked my mom why she continued to smoke afterward, and she said it was because she enjoyed it. That was her choice, and even though I am much more familiar with the dangers of smoking than they were when they started, I respected their decisions.

However, laws became necessary when it was discovered how deadly secondhand smoke could be to people who chose not to smoke. In a case like that, as Mr. Spock and Admiral Kirk summarized in “The Wrath of Khan” in 1982, “The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.”

This is not the case with voluntary tire registration. The recalls have been few compared to tires sold, the tires recovered have been consistently high, and the fatalities attributed to recalled tires is almost nonexistent.

Accidental death is always tragic, and it, too, should not be dismissed arbitrarily. It, however, is unavoidable, no matter how well legislation is crafted. I found this quote from noted businessman and engineer Norman Ralph Augustine (I had never heard of him, either) to be relevant: “One cannot legislate problems out of existence. It has been tried.”

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) supports mandatory tire registration at the point of sale. In contrast, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) is against it, preferring education to legislation.

I would love it if the two largest organizations in our industry could get together and figure out how to raise tire registration rates without legislation. But the two sides appear to be too far apart for that to happen.

Personally, I think mandatory tire registration is inevitable. Vehicle registration is mandatory, and it’s a short leap from there to tires considering how important they are to the vehicle’s performance and, yes, safety.

If it becomes mandatory, who would pay for the added cost? Tire manufacturers may have little control over the tires once they leave the factory, but they are ultimately responsible if they are defective. Where will the information go once it is collected? Some dealers are wary of giving customer information to their suppliers.

Those are questions the RMA and TIA can and should discuss if necessary.   ■

If you have questions or comments, please email me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

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