TIA in 2006
What sort of issues will be facing the Tire Industry Association (TIA) during President Bob Malerba's upcoming year in office?
Dick Gust, president of Lakin Environmental Industries and the outgoing TIA president; Roy Littlefield, executive vice president of TIA; and Bob Malerba himself were asked this question. Here's what they believe lies ahead.
Certified Store Training Program. This program would help achieve a uniform and commendable level of certification for tire dealership employees. It's an expensive, long-term goal, but TIA will continue to work toward it. The association sponsored a focus group to discuss the process last fall and asked for input from nine companies that do a significant amount of training.
It's under study by a committee and eventually will go before the TIA board. First, however, Malerba believes TIA must work to give the association greater "brand recognition" with the public to provide the whole program greater credibility.
With Malerba's long-standing interest in training and education, this program is certain to be a top priority in 2005-06.
Insurance, health care. Malerba says a new look at what it would cost to insure each employee in dealerships in all 50 states is needed to "redefine" the situation. Littlefield says if a TIA employee certification program is achieved, it could lead to greatly reduced health care deductibles for those who qualify. A health care benefits consultant has been asked to prepare a proposed plan that ultimately will be handled by an insurance company. But there's no timetable for working out a final solution.
Right to Repair Act. Tire dealers have a big stake in what Congress decides about auto manufacturers sharing service information with independent dealers. Now that new car dealers are selling tires, the decision becomes even more critical.
Malerba pledges to work on government relations and to cooperate with other associations and interest groups to help tire dealers and others prevail in their efforts to get the information they need to properly service the products from car manufacturers.
Tire pressure monitoring systems. TIA believes the National Highway Safety Administration (NHTSA) and the tire industry need to get on the same page to develop a uniform approach and adequate training for the handling and repair of tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMSs).
For example, NHTSA specifies TPMSs must warn drivers when a tire is 25% under-inflated. But tire manufacturers and servicemen are aware that tires even 20% under-inflated wear rapidly and could eventually be unsafe.
Littlefield notes that there are 38 or 39 different vehicles using various systems. More uniformity is needed and more training for handling and repairing the tires. At present, about all TIA can do is lobby and hope government bureaucrats will listen.
Malerba says his goal will be to help TIA's Training and Education Committee get the government involved in bringing a joint strategic plan to reality. Some $300,000 is needed for TPMS technician training and, under present conditions, this training would need to be updated every year.
Tire check-off system. Most tire dealers agree that industry-wide public relations campaigns, training programs and possibly lobbying efforts for the common good would be beneficial. All these take money. But there's much disagreement over how much money, how it should be raised and who should decide how to spend it.
One early TIA proposal was for a 50-cent check-off fee on every new tire received from tire manufacturers. This met with opposition from many sources, and the association backed off and decided to educate members on benefits of such a program before attempting to institute it, perhaps on a more modest scale.
Legal issues also were raised, along with questions of who should collect the money and how such a check-off program could be enforced. Last May, TIA was pleased by a United States Supreme Court decision that a beef industry check-off fund was constitutional and was not a "compelling subsidy" that violated free speech.
TIA's new check-off proposal is TIRES, for Tire Initiative for Research, Education and Safety. The association is talking with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and other groups in efforts to work out an acceptable compromise and a much lower fee of, say, two or three cents per tire. Perhaps there will be more specifics in the proposal as to exactly what kind of activities the fee would underwrite.
Malerba sees great potential in the program, especially in the areas of technician training and better public education on issues of interest to tire dealers. So check-off funding could be a key TIA issue during the coming year.
Lead wheel weights. With the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) studying environmental effects of tire dealers' disposal of lead wheel weights and an advocacy group, Ecology Center, pushing for their ban, the issue is of concern to TIA, which believes there is no data proving a significant risk of their use.
Though some environmental studies show tire dealers have not been recycling lead wheel weights as conscientiously as they should, it's doubtful a ban on them will be imposed.
Alternative wheel weights, such as copper and other metals, are more expensive and harder to work with. And it's likely that tire dealers are recycling more lead weights than it appeared in one survey because recycling makes economic sense.
(The EPA recently announced it will not ban lead wheel weights, citing "insufficient data" as the reason. However, the EPA could revisit the possibility of a ban in the future, according to Becky MacDicken, TIA's director of government affairs.)
Future of the World Tire Expo. Though attendance was not large at the World Tire Expo (WTE) in Louisville last April, seminars were well attended and most exhibitors were pleased. And the trade show did make money.
There is talk that the next WTE in 2007 may combine the Louisville commercial retreading and recycling show with a recycling convention or conference in Washington, D.C., that would include government bureaucrats and congressional leaders and, hopefully, get extensive media coverage.
Malerba and Littlefield agree that the quality of attendees in Louisville was excellent and the expo should be continued. They also say that making this convention a part of the huge Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) Show in Las Vegas, as some have suggested, would be a mistake. It would suffer from too many distractions and be lost on the huge trade show floor.
Global Council. With visits to tire shows in Europe, Asia, Australia, Africa and Canada, the Global Council has encouraged global cooperation. Malerba believes strongly in this. The effort will continue, especially since next year's TIA president will be Paul Hyatt, a Canadian dealer.
In looking ahead at all these issues, Malerba says he will continue to follow the philosophy he has used during a quarter of a century of experience as a national tire association board member. He'll encourage emphasis on education and stress cooperation with other groups, even those who may not agree on all issues. He believes communications and compromise can provide solutions that would benefit the industry as a whole.
Lloyd Stoyer retired as editor of Modern Tire Dealer in 2000. That same year he was inducted into the Tire Industry Association's Hall of Fame. He resides in Canton, Ohio.