More on California's proposed tire aging bill

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According to the California Tire Report, the tire aging bill in California was made into a two-year bill on Monday when the author "didn’t have the votes to get it out of the Senate Business, Professions & Economic Development Committee."

(See "Sponsors pull CA tire aging bill from consideration," July 13, 2009.)

In its current form, AB 496 (Mike Davis, D-Los Angeles) requires a tire dealer to:

1) disclose to a customer the date of manufacture of a new or used tire, and

2) issue a statement warning them to replace tires that are over six years old.

The proposed legislation was strongly opposed by tire dealers, the Tire Industry Association and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA). It "had the patina of being a consumer information bill, but was called 'a stealth candidate for enriching trial lawyers," said Terry Leveille, president of TL & Associates, editor and publisher of the California Tire Report. "That opinion may have come about when the Consumer Attorneys of California was listed on the 'support' side."

The bill's sponsor, Safety Research & Strategies Inc., and the Automobile Club of Southern California also were supporters of the bill.

Here's Leveille's report (Vol. XV, No. 37, July 15, 2009).

"While the bill was never debated in the Senate B & P Committee (it passed the assembly on a 49-30 partyline vote), backroom lobbying by opponents of AB 496 found some Democrats asking questions about the fairness of the legislation.

"Supporters of AB 496 based their arguments that data clearly shows tires degrade due to thermo-oxidative aging of tire rubber. Auto manufacturers often recommend that tires older than six years should be used only in an emergency and should be replaced as soon as possible. 

"Opponents countered with concerns that the 'six-year' benchmark has never been found in any study and by incorporating it in statute it exposed tire retailers to litigation.
"The tire dealers and RMA pointed out that the seminal study into tire aging by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration ('Research Report to Congress on Tire Aging, August 2007') concluded that, while tires degrade with age, more research needs to be completed before 'it (NHTSA) can have a sufficient understanding of the aging phenomenon to support any possible safety standard or consumer recommendations on the issue.'

"Never in its report does NHTSA mention a 'six-year' benchmark that determines when a tire becomes prone to failure. More importantly, the report said that tires fail for many reasons aside from age, such as underinflation, road hazards, heavy loads, and improper mounting.

"When the author of AB 496, assembly member Mike Davis, took a floor amendment in the assembly to exempt car dealers from notifying customers about tire aging, the opposition questioned whether the bill was really focused on consumer information. Why, opponents wondered, would legislation exempt a large and growing segment of the market that sells replacement tires? Shouldn’t customers who buy tires from car dealers be told to remove their tires after six years?

"But the real concern was liability. Opponents worried that denoting a six-year benchmark would establish a legal presumption that any tire failure from an older tire would be due to aging and not one of the other many reasons. Tire dealers also worried that even when they were not required to issue a warning to customers, such as when they rotated tires or inflated them, if they were six years or older at the time there could be grounds for a lawsuit if those tires should ever fail.

"Finally, opponents argued that California’s used tire market, which approaches two million annually, would undoubtedly be affected by AB 496. Many of those tires are four or five years old. What customer would want to buy a tire with a warning (that) says it should be replaced after a year or so? Where will all the unsold used tires go? How many tire shops whose primary business is selling used tires will go under? How many customers will decide to continue driving on worn, unsafe old tires rather than purchase used tires that have sufficient tread?

"Unless AB 496 is amended before it is reintroduced in 2010, expect opponents to gear up once again to fight the legislation. Similar bills in Hawaii, New York and New Jersey were also introduced this year and have failed."

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