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Croswell: Why TIA matters

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Wayne Croswell, president of the Tire Industry Association, was the keynote speaker at the 20th annual Mid-America Tire Dealers Association (MATDA) Convention and Trade Show, held recently in Catoosa, Okla.

Here are excerpts from his speech, which focus on the tire industry in 2009 -- and what TIA has to offer in 2010.

“In the tire industry, we saw the federal government establish tariffs on tire imports from China and regional governments attempt to pass tire aging and tire efficiency standards legislation.

“In the Northwest, they faced issues such as the banning of lead wheel weights in Washington, and in Oregon, the passage of a Greenhouse Gas Bill.

“In January, in the state of Washington, the 2010 legislative session opened up and, there was talk of passing a ban on the use of studded tires. The claim is the studs are doing too much damage to the highways. Save the roads, sacrifice our safety?  Didn’t make much sense! And now they are dealing with maximum levels of copper in brake pads.

“Where will it end? We see more and more legislature around the country regarding anything and everything that might endanger the environment. Officials are jumping on the ‘go green’ bandwagon, even when it doesn’t make any sense.

“But, despite all of this doom and gloom, there are plenty of positives around. I’m well into my term as TIA president, and I can tell you that we are working hard every day on behalf of the tire industry, including providing whatever support we can to organizations like the Mid-America TDA. I’d like to tell you a little bit about what TIA is doing, and how your support is critical to our efforts.

“When I assumed the office in November, I announced my goals for TIA and our members.  I have to say, being the president of TIA exposes you to quite a bit of our industry, the workings of government, and much more. I would like to give you an update on where we are on several of my goals and some projects at TIA.

“In terms of government relations, we are working on several key issues. The first one is the federally mandated Tire Consumer Education opportunity. This is part of the law coming out of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA’s) proposed ‘Rulemaking for a Tire Fuel Efficiency Consumer Information Program.

“TIA believes we are best suited to provide this education to consumers. We believe our members, dealers like you, throughout the United States can deliver this vital education to consumers at the point-of-sale. Today, we offer all sorts of training to dealers, and consumer education on tire safety is one more vital training element we can offer. Our detailed comments to NHTSA, are available on-line for you to read.

“Today, the final ruling is in the hands of the Office of Management and Budget, or OMB. If you will bear with me, a little education on the federal government…. The OMB’s predominant mission is to assist the president in overseeing the preparation of the federal budget and to supervise its administration in executive branch agencies.

“In helping to formulate the president's spending plans, OMB evaluates the effectiveness of agency programs, policies, and procedures, assesses competing funding demands among agencies, and sets funding priorities. OMB ensures that agency reports, rules, testimony, and proposed legislation are consistent with the president's budget and with administration policies.

“In short, they are reviewing the ruling and have 90 days to modify the ruling or to agree with it. So here we are, in the waiting period. We are looking forward to the opportunity, but at this point, we have to wait and see. If you listened to the president’s State of the Union address last month, you heard that he is proposing a spending freeze, but we don’t believe this freeze will derail this very important consumer safety education. Stay tuned. This could be a very exciting opportunity for TIA and for you.

“I would imagine everyone knows the status of healthcare reform since the Massachusetts election of Scott Brown to the U.S. Senate. Will the Democrats now negotiate with small business to include some kind of tort reform to reign in malpractice settlements? Will there be relief for small business healthcare premiums and the exploding cost of delivering healthcare? TIA is part of a coalition that will continue to deliver this message to Congress, and we believe for the short term, we have some breathing room.

“We want to be sure you are aware of a recent attempt to mandate retread safety standards equivalent to the new tire standards in a motorcoach safety bill. Senate Bill S.554, introduced by Senators Kay Bailey Hutchison (R-Texas) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio), contained the following paragraph (as it is worded):

(2) COMMERCIAL MOTOR VEHICLE RETREADED TIRES -- Not later than 3 years after the date of enactment of this Act, the Secretary shall establish a performance standard for retreaded, regrooved, or otherwise remanufactured commercial motor vehicle tires that ensures that such tires achieve a level of safety performance that is at least equivalent to the safety performance of new commercial motor vehicle tires.

“TIA was able to quickly get appointments with the committee staffers and express our concerns. It was at one of these meetings that TIA was presented with the language that removes any retread safety standards language and does not even refer to retreads:

(2) TIRE PERFORMANCE STANDARD -- The Secretary shall upgrade performance standards for tires used on motorcoaches, including an enhanced endurance test and a new high-speed performance test.

“We heard from these staffers that certain ‘safety groups’ were pushing the original language, and we are working to find out who they are.

“We continue to partner with three major automotive aftermarket associations to lobby for the Motor Vehicle Owner’s Right to Repair Act. Over the last six years, we have submitted testimony, attended hearings, lined up dealers to testify and continue to knock on Capitol Hill doors, as well as working with state associations to garner grassroots support for this critical issue. I am pleased to report that efforts in Massachusetts are paying off. The house committee in Massachusetts (in February) passed the bill and sent it to the Senate. A major step forward in getting this bill passed there.

“Even though the tariff on Chinese-made passenger and light-truck tires is in effect, we continue to work to have this punitive and unproductive tariff repealed. We applaud the efforts of Congressmen Kevin Brady (R-Texas) and Dan Boren (D-Okla.), urging the U.S. Trade Representative Ron Kirk to establish a comprehensive monitoring system to assess the impact of the import tax on U.S. employment, tire prices and auto safety. And more importantly, does it make sense to repeal the tariff? We don’t believe the tariff will save jobs or create jobs as the United Steelworkers claimed when they urged the president to implement the tariffs.

“The United Steelworkers union recently expressed that they would like to see tariffs imposed on imports from Thailand. We believe the only results to date have been higher tire costs to you and higher prices to consumers.

“We are also working with a coalition to monitor the House-passed ‘Cap and Trade’ legislation, which is a comprehensive effort to deal with greenhouse gas emissions on a global scale. The legislation as it stands would have a far-reaching impact on fuel and energy prices, but again, because of the Massachusetts election, if this legislation passes the Senate it will look far different.

“We continue to monitor any activity on the Employee Free Choice Act, which would allow workers to form unions without a secret ballot election, when a majority of them sign cards authorizing a union. As it stands now, this bill is not going anywhere.

“Lastly, when invited, TIA continues to work on state issues with state associations and members on an as-needed basis, writing letters, and facilitating grassroots lobbying and testimony.

“But, all of this important work in the halls of government can only happen if we have a strong PAC fund. So, I urge you to make a contribution to the TIA TirePAC, so we can make sure that your voice is heard. You can go online to www.tireindustry.org to http://tireindustry.org/pdf/tirePAC_form.pdf for the pre-approval form and TIA will be in touch with you.

“In terms of services to our members, it’s never been a better time to be a member of TIA. We have some incredibly strong member benefit programs that are saving tire dealers thousands of dollars. We have a terrific shipping discount with FedEx; we offer discounted payroll and HR services through Ceridian; and we offer affordable health insurance plan options through Kiely Hines.

“If you are a TIA member, I encourage you to go to our Web site at www.tireindustry.org and look at how these programs can save you money. The Membership Committee will continue to look for new and better ways to serve our membership through our programs and benefits. In fact, the committee is currently working on a couple of new benefits. We just launched a directory of service providers to your businesses, and another one is an exciting program that can increase your service business through a nationwide network of members.

“I also have pledged to continue TIA’s position as the world’s leading tire training authority. Our Automotive Tire Service (ATS) course and recently updated Commercial Tire Service (CTS) course are widely regarded as the best in the world. Our TIA TPMS Relearn Chart is a one-of-a-kind product that is helping thousands of tire technicians accurately and quickly reset TPMS sensors whenever a vehicle’s tires are repaired. For this year, in addition to expanding our Automotive and Commercial Tire Service training and certification classes, we are moving forward with our plans to update the ATS program, which will include more advanced modules on TPMS diagnostic and relearn procedures for all foreign and domestic vehicles.

“All of our certified ATS instructors and technicians will receive free updates to their manuals in 2010, and the instructors will receive new videos to train their technicians in order to prepare them for the certification exam. We are about to reach our 50,000th trained technician worldwide.

“TIA will also aggressively pursue a national certification program for earthmover tire service technicians with the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA), so mines and service providers can ensure compliance with all training requirements for employees that service large OTR tires. TIA hopes to get MSHA approval or recognition, so all service providers will be held to the same standards for technician training, regardless of location.

“Additionally, we launched our Environmental Advisory Council…. This council is made up of several TIA board members as well as some prominent figures in the recycling and environmental conscious community. They include members from tire manufacturers and even a member from Costco’s. This council is actively planning a national conference on ‘going green’ and the environmental impacts you need to be aware of in your business. The conference is scheduled for Oct. 1-2 in the (Washington) D.C. area. Keep a watch out for more information on this exciting meeting. We hope you will support this very important initiative.

“Since SEMA 2009, we have been working with the tire manufacturers and the top executives at SEMA to outline what things the manufacturers want to see at SEMA to continue to improve the already great experience that exists there. Our goal is to make SEMA aware what enhancements the manufacturers want. At TIA, we saw an opportunity to bring both groups together to work on this issue.

“We have a great relationship with the manufacturers and felt this was something that we could be of service to our industry. We hosted our first meeting in Washington, D.C., at the RMA headquarters. The top 10 manufacturers were able to attend. We have held follow-up teleconferences, and the TIA executive committee and key TIA staff met with SEMA executives in Tucson, Ariz., during the third week in February. I am very pleased with the cooperation from all parties at this stage of the process.

“So, as you can see, it’s already a very busy year…. It’s been tough for many tire dealers, and TIA stands as committed as ever to helping dealers like you not only survive times like these, but thrive in them. If you’re not currently a member, I hope you’ll give us the chance to prove how your membership not only strengthens your business, but also the tire industry as a whole.

“If you are a member, I want to say a heartfelt ‘thanks.’ Simply put, without members like you, we would not exist.”

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