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Sticker shock

Sometimes the government tries to do too much. Tire labeling and tire aging are cases in point.

Tire labeling is a done deal  in principle, with a few details left to be determined. The new tire rating system will replace the  Uniform Tire Quality Grading (UTQG) system, with the big difference being the addition of a rolling resistance grade.

I don’t have a problem with the grading system, which is required by the federal Energy Independence and Security Act (EISA) of 2007. I really don’t think tire manufacturers do, either. They initially fought low rolling resistance testing, but I always got the impression their reluctance was a contract negotiations-type ploy, without agents.

What I don’t like is the idea that the Tire Rating System label must follow the tire on which it is plastered out the door. In essence, the tire in the showroom is the one the consumer will have to buy. I’m not sure that requirement will remain part of the final rule, but I hope not.

The Tire Industry Association (TIA) remains strongly opposed to implementing new tire labels as the primary mechanism for the national consumer education campaign required by the government’s fuel economy program. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has requested millions of dollars — nearly $8 million in 2011 — to provide support for the required rulemakings establishing fuel economy standards for passenger cars and light trucks; that includes implementing the new tire efficiency rating system.

I hope some of that money goes to TIA, which is well- suited to running the consumer education program.

 That brings us to the topic of tire aging. Earlier this year, legislation was introduced in the Maryland state legislature that would have put additonal hardship on both tire manufacturers and distributors when selling tires for passenger cars, SUVs, crossovers and motorcycles. The state bill would have required them to:

• affix on all tires a label stating the date of manufacture;

• make available a statement on tire aging (which would spell out that NHTSA recommends tires be replaced after six years regardless of the remaining tread depth);

• put the date of manufacture on the receipt or invoice;

• have consumers sign a disclosure statement;

• have retailers give a copy of the disclosure statement to the consumer; and

• force retailers to keep a copy of the signed disclaimer.

Any retailers who violated any provision of the new law would have been subject to a $500 fine for each infraction.

The bill was introduced in both the Maryland Senate and the House of Delegates. The House bill (HB729) was introduced with 22 co-sponsors.

Fortunately, the label has been tabled. The Consumer Protection and Commercial Law Subcommittee of the Maryland House Economic Matters Committee voted to reject it, which means the House measure is dead for the year.

TIA Executive Vice President Dr. Roy Littlefield called the bill an “outrageous and unnecessary government regulation,” and I agree.  But don’t get too smug. NHTSA is looking at developing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking (NPRM) addressing tire aging requirements for light vehicle tires.

In the past, I’ve said that tire aging legislation is inevitable. Our industry already has lost this battle in the court of public opinion; I only hope we can get the government to back a 10-year expiration date instead of a six-year date.

And I’m tired of all these tire labels the government wants to stick on tires. One day, people will start referring to them as round and white instead of round and black.

I’m not sure how necessary they really are. The Federal Cigarette Labeling and Advertising Act of 1965 required that the warning “Caution: Cigarette Smoking May Be Hazardous to Your Health” be placed in small print on one of the side panels of each cigarette package.

That’s really curtailed smoking, hasn’t it? What the heck, while we are at it, let’s put that sticker on the tire, too.  

If you have any questions or comments, please e-mail me at bob.ulrich@bobit.com.

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