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USTMA Prioritizes Working with New White House, Senate

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“We are a regulated industry and it’s important to build relationships with new regulatory officials who come in,” says the USTMA President and CEO Anne Forristall Luke.

The last time MTD caught up with Anne Forristall Luke, president and CEO of the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA), was during April 2020, when the association’s 13 members were grappling with demand drop-offs, plant shutdowns and general uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic.

Nearly one year later, Forristall Luke says the association’s focus has shifted to working with the new Biden Administration and Senate to help advance its members’ interests at the legislative level. “Our members are feeling optimistic about 2021.”

MTD: How have your members recovered from what was a very strange, tough year in 2020?

Forristall Luke: Last year was just completely unprecedented. March and April were unlike anything we’ve ever seen before. The industry - as well as the association - had to pivot literally overnight. Demand plummeted and then started to recover. And it started to recover pretty quickly. 

So one of our challenges is going to be able to make sure that we, as an industry, can meet that demand. That’s one of the reasons we are so very interested in working with the federal government, which can provide consistent, national guidance on, for example, vaccine distribution and assisting states, rather than leaving everyone to their own devices. That’s one of the reasons we're continuing to also pursue legislation for economic recovery. It will be interesting to see how all of that plays out. 

Going into 2021, I will tell you there's still uncertainty, but there is less. There are supply chain challenges and shipment shortages and they are good reminders that things are going to happen that we can’t anticipate. But we feel really good. There are some really good signals. 

MTD: What are the association's main priorities in 2021, in terms of supporting its members?

Forristall Luke: Building good relationships with the Biden Administration, as well as the leadership of the Senate, and then obviously COVID-19 response and economic recovery. 

We have several priorities for legislation. We sent a letter to congressional leadership on Feb. 10, outlining what we see are measures to help ensure that manufacturers have the liquidity they need to retain their workforces. Those measures include different kinds of business tax credits and then, of course, ensuring the availability of resources needed to expand vaccine coordination and distribution. We’re supportive of all of that. 

And then beyond COVID-19 response and economic recovery, we are very focused on several proactive things, including infrastructure investment, modernizing the tire regulatory framework at the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, climate change and other issues - and then things having to do with tire materials and various regulatory things that are happening there.

MTD: As you prepare to work with the new White House and Senate, do you foresee a continuation of what has already been in place ?

Forristall Luke: I think it’s clear that President Biden and his team are focused on quick action to get the pandemic under control. They are focused on providing the necessary resources. They are focused on providing coordination as a national policy that perhaps the previous administration was not as focused on. 

We know that President Biden also is prioritizing climate change and we want to be a partner in those discussions. We think it’s an opportunity to show innovation in the tire industry. Our members are rolling out technological advancements that are going to be critical in achieving greenhouse gas emission reductions, including lower rolling resistance tires and tires with sensors that provide real-time information to optimize fleet management. 

Do we think there will be challenges? Yes. There will surely be challenges. Most people will not understand, necessarily, the tire manufacturing industry. So there’s some education that will need to be done, particularly working with Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg and his leadership (on) our industry - tire performance and safety standards and what kind of new regulatory frameworks would be appropriate. For example, tires for electric vehicles are different than tires for other vehicles. 

But bottom line, overall, we feel very optimistic that there are a lot of opportunities for the tire industry to work with this administration.

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