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New TIA President Will Focus on Dealer Needs

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KEYWORDS Mason Hess TIA
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Mason Hess calls himself a "third-generation tire guy," and he's taking over as president of the board of the Tire Industry Association.

As the director of Purcell Tire & Rubber Co.’s global mining division, new Tire Industry Association (TIA) President Mason Hess knows tires — especially big ones. 

Before joining Purcell Tire 14 years ago, Hess worked for D&D Tire, a large OTR tire dealership that his current employer acquired in 2008. Prior to that, he worked for Cobre Tire Co., where he started his career some 30 years ago. 

But Hess’ roots in the tire industry go back even further. His grandfather ran an independent tire store. And Hess’ father worked in the tire industry for decades. 

“I’m a third generation tire guy and proud of it,” says Hess, who is looking forward to the year ahead. 

In this interview, he previews some of the things TIA members can expect to see from the association in 2022. 

MTD: How does your background as an executive at one of the biggest, independently owned and operated tire dealerships in the country help inform your perspective and your agenda as TIA president? 

Hess: I believe Purcell is a great microcosm of the industry. Purcell has five divisions: retail, commercial, wholesale, OTR and they’re also a manufacturer — they make retreads. That’s a big chunk of the industry. This has allowed me to see all the different puzzle pieces and the challenges that come with them. 

MTD: Do you think your status as a dealer gives you some unique insights into what TIA members need? 

Hess: One of our members said to me the other day, ‘The tire industry is kind of like a big ecosystem and TIA is like a marine biologist charged with making sure it’s safe and making sure it thrives.’ And I think that’s a good definition. TIA, as a group — whether it’s dealers or manufacturers or other vendors — it’s all important and it’s all part of that ecosystem. 

MTD: What are some of the challenges you want to tackle during your term? 

Hess: A day doesn’t go by where we aren’t talking about employees, getting good people and employee retention. There’s an experienced, older workforce in our industry right now that is headed toward retirement and there’s not enough young, skilled workers coming in behind them. And that could lead to a crisis. There’s no denying — especially with some of the challenges last year with COVID-19 — that we’re in a position where we need people. TIA can help with that. 

It’s also very important that young people entering our industry are trained correctly so they’re safe. And the other challenge is we’re not the only industry that’s looking for new workers. There are other service industries that will be fighting for the same young workers. They’re having the same challenges we are. 

I think there are conversations that need to continue about implementing training programs in our school systems — whether trade schools or high schools. And hopefully that can bring some talent and numbers to our industry. 

A lot of people don’t see working in our industry as a career. We have to change that. It can be a great career. I have people who work with me and around me who have had great careers in the tire industry. 

MTD: The COVID-19 pandemic forced TIA to move to online training last year. The association has since returned to in-person training. Why is this beneficial for TIA members? 

Hess: There’s really nothing that can replace the hands-on aspect. We learned through COVID-19 how to adapt and (TIA Senior Vice President of Training) Kevin Rohlwing did an awesome job — along with the training department — in converting us quickly to the virtual world. And that will continue to be part of our tool box. But we’re going to keep live training going as much as we can. So we’ll continue to invest. 

MTD: TIA continues to address legislative issues that can impact tire dealers. In a recent MTD column, I wrote about fines that can be applied to dealers for mistakes made — even innocently — when registering tires. Can you bring us up to speed on the progress TIA is making on that front? 

Hess: Fines have gotten outrageous — to the point they can put dealers out of business. TIA has worked for the past year (on the issue) and continues to address this. TIA made it clear from the beginning that the fines are a major concern and our position will not change. 

MTD: Efforts are underway in California to establish some sort of rule that would require replacement passenger and light truck tires to have the same or better rolling resistance levels than original equipment tires. I understand that TIA’s discussions with the California Energy Commission (CEC) are going well. Would you agree? 

Hess: They are and I think we’ve done a really good job of staying on top of that from the beginning. We started a dialogue with the CEC as soon as they opened the door to public comment. They’ve brought us in to educate them. 

We submitted comments back in March and continue to be in touch with CEC officials. We’ll keep talking with them about the consequences of what they’re proposing. 

MTD: What’s the biggest thing you want to accomplish as TIA president? 

Hess: I’d like to see a greater emphasis on micro-learning. The technology side of the world is advancing very quickly. Younger people are very comfortable with a YouTube learning environment. We have a ton of resources and tools that we need to develop to help us get there. 

We’re also working on updating our website to be more current and tie into micro-learning. The foundation of the site will be built hopefully within my term. And maybe we can develop an app that ties back to the site and offers quick training updates and safety reminders. 

We have to change, just like every industry. The older workforce did things a certain way. They would reach for a fax machine or a phone book back in the day and now younger people get everything they need from their phones. Training needs to be part of that. 

MTD: Why is it important for tire dealers to get involved with TIA? 

Hess: Our members are facing challenges on a lot of fronts. TIA can help ensure that new employees are trained. Access to training is critical. State and federal regulations also are always changing. Staying on top of that — as a dealer — can be tough. TIA can help. There are also some great insurance programs that TIA works with to help members keep their costs down. There’s power in numbers. The stronger our members are, the stronger TIA will be.

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