SEMA condemns rolling resistance bill, TIA takes it under 'careful consideration'

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The Specialty Equipment Market Association calls H.R. 5632, the rolling resistance bill, "unnecessary" and believes it would impose burdens on small businesses and also could be detrimental to consumer safety. Meanwhile, the Tire Industry Association is taking the bill under "some very careful consideration," according to Paul Fiore, the association's director of government and business relations.

"This is a crucial bill in that it affects a lot of things for our members," says Fiore.

"We recognize the importance of the bill. We're waiting to get feedback from (TIA's) Government Affairs Committee."

Fiore recently told that once TIA takes a position on the bill, "we will be" on Capitol Hill.

Today SEMA will submit a letter to John Shimkus, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, asking him not to pursue the rolling resistance bill, which was approved by the House's Energy and Commerce Committee last month.

Here are excerpts from that letter:

"SEMA opposes H.R. 5632 for the following reasons:

* H.R. 5632 is unnecessary: The Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences published a 134-page report on the topic in April 2006. It recommends that the government collect and share information on how tires affect the fuel efficiency of cars and light trucks, which they contend will allow consumers to seek out the most efficient brands. However, it still leaves some tire fuel efficiency questions unanswered. The U.S. Congress requested the report and NHTSA will now consider implementing its recommendations and further research. H.R. 5632 is therefore duplicative and unnecessary.

* Expert report cautions about tire fuel efficiency programs: The Transportation Research Board estimates that about 200 million replacement tires are in use in the U.S. and that consumers spend about $20 billion annually replacing worn-out tires. The report concludes that it is technically and economically feasible to reduce rolling resistance by up to 10%, which would translate into a savings of one to two billion gallons of fuel per year. The report acknowledges that correct tire inflation, misalignment and misbalancing are major contributors to rolling resistance, as opposed to the tire's fuel efficiency characteristics.

"The Transportation Research Board also found that rolling resistance varies between brands depending on size, weight, tread and other factors. While reductions in tread thickness, volume and mass are among the means available to reduce rolling resistance, the Board cautioned these changes may be undesirable if they lead to shorter tire lives and larger number of scrap tires.

* H.R. 5632 would impose substantial regulatory burdens: The proposed program would require tire testing mandates on manufacturers and dissemination of consumer information. Section 11 of the TREAD Act [P.L. No. 106-414] required NHTSA to conduct a rulemaking to improve the information readily available to consumers about tires. Correspondingly, NHTSA issued a final rule on Nov. 18, 2002

[67 FR 69599-69632] with new labeling and consumer information rules. These rules are designed to help consumers understand the importance of observing tire load limits, maintaining proper tire inflation, and becoming knowledgeable about tire size, endurance, temperature ratings, etc.

"The rules are being phased-in and impose significant and ongoing financial burdens on vehicle and tire manufacturers and their distributors/dealers. An additional replacement tire fuel economy program would create an additional burden on industry and cause consumer confusion at a time when the federal government is trying to simplify the message about tire safety.

* H.R. 5632 would impose redesign costs: The program would potentially impose substantial costs on tire manufacturers to redesign all replacement tires for improved rolling resistance, then redesign tire treads and compounds to overcome safety and performance inadequacies associated with redesigning tires solely for upgrading rolling resistance. These inadequacies include poor stopping distance, reduced cornering ability, shorter tread life and reduced wet traction.

"Industry would have to also redesign production lines and rework tire molds to compensate for all redesigned tires. Undoubtedly, these costs would be passed on to small tire dealers and installers, and eventually consumers.

* Tire fuel efficiency programs favor OEM tires: The program would drive many consumers to purchase only original equipment manufacturer-recommended tires because the program would potentially exempt OEM-selected tires and unfairly imply that they are superior to aftermarket products.

* Tire fuel efficiency programs impose small business burdens: The program’s tire testing and consumer information dissemination requirements would impose an unreasonable burden on small businesses, a category that includes many tire manufacturers, dealers and installers.

* H.R. 5632 potentially reduces consumer safety: The program would dissuade consumers from buying tires that may have improved performance, handling or appearance features, based solely on a rolling resistance rating. In addition, this program could easily distract consumers from focusing on more important safety issues such as tire inflation and overloading of vehicles.

"We are convinced that this legislation is unnecessary and could actually be detrimental to consumer safety. For the reasons noted above, we respectfully request that you not pursue the legislation at this time."

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