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RMA says yes to mandatory tire registration. TIA says no

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How to effectively register tires has been an issue that has placed the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) at odds on more than one occasion since the late 1970s. It was then that the National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association (NTDRA), predecessor to today’s TIA, was able to convert mandatory tire registration to a voluntary system.

The bill by Congress that changed registration to voluntary was passed in late 1982 after at least three years of debate. The rift between the two associations over this issue appeared again this week at the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) Passenger Vehicle Tire Safety Symposium on Dec. 9 and 10 in Washington, D.C.

The NTSB is considering a variety of recommendations from scientists, safety advocates and tire industry professionals to improve tire safety, including a proposal from the RMA that the government require tire dealers to register tires at the point of sale for consumers.

The RMA cited low registration rates of tires sold by independent retailers as the reason behind its proposal, which is opposed by TIA.

Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of training, participated in the NTSB forum and suggested a collective effort to educate consumers on the importance of registering tires.

Rohlwing told the forum that the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA), RMA and tire manufacturers have made little to no effort to educate consumers, and that low registration rates are more reflective of consumer apathy than the lack of compliance on the part of independent tire dealers.

"I want NTSB to be aware of the fact it is not a reflection on the dealers following through. It is more a reflection of consumers (not) following through. This becomes more of an education problem that we see."

Rohlwing told the symposium that consumers are "largely unaware" of the importance of registering their tires and said the responsibility for the registration process should be shared.

"Whether it is NHTSA or TIA from the education and follow-through standpoint, we agree it needs to be better," Rohlwing said. "We just want to make sure it is fair and equitable and we are not putting all of the burden on the backs of these small businesses who are really at the mercy of getting the (registration) cards from the manufacturers. We have to purchase them, or they can be added on the point of sale, but that is all on the back of the independent businessperson… whereas no one else is doing anything. We think that the responsibility should be shared."

Roy Littlefield, TIA executive vice president, says the association is "incredibly disappointed that RMA supports a legislative solution" to the problem of low tire registration rates.

“TIA has been working with RMA on a number of legislative issues like tire repair and used tires over the past few years, but there have been no discussions related to mandatory tire registration. We had talked about working together to educate and improve voluntary numbers, so it was a total shock to hear that they are proposing legislation over education.”

The RMA recommendation was part of four steps that RMA presented. The four steps were outlined in a release after the symposium. RMA will offer four steps for NTSB to include as recommendations when the agency finalizes a report on its study of tire-related issues later next year. They are:

1. Improve tire registration. Congress should change the current tire registration law to require tire sellers to electronically register tires at point of sale. Current law only requires dealers to offer a paper card to consumers who must then mail the information to the tire manufacturer. Tire registration is a critical safety issue that allows consumers to be notified by a tire manufacturer in the event of a recall. Overall, fewer than 20% of all tires are registered.

2. TIN lookup tool. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) should create a Web-based tool that tire dealers and consumers could use to quickly determine whether a tire is subject to a recall. A search tool would be based on the tire brand, model and Tire Identification Number (TIN) that is molded onto the tire sidewall. Currently, all tire manufacturers or importers of record must notify NHTSA of any tire recalls. Manufacturer submissions are entered into a government database but not easily utilized by tire dealers or consumers.

3. Stop sales of unsafe used tires. States should enact legislation to prohibit the sale of unsafe used tires. More than 30 million used tires become available for sale each year. Worn-out, damaged, improperly repaired tires are readily available from used tire shops across the nation. RMA is advocating state unsafe used tire legislation in at least four states in 2015. RMA efforts supported successful enactment of unsafe used tire legislation in Colorado in 2014.

4. Urge states to help motorists "Be Tire Smart." States should incorporate tire care and maintenance messages into highway safety programs. RMA and tire manufacturers work with many stakeholders to promote proper tire maintenance and can share information and content to assist state highway safety offices. States should issue reminders during periods of heavy travel periods; use of roadside signs and other credible communication tools available should be used by states when possible.

As part of the presentations on tire aging, Tracy Norberg, senior vice president, regulatory affairs and general counsel for the RMA, suggested an increase in consumer education is necessary. "We do not believe the data supports tire expiration dates. We would like to see more education about proper tire maintenance."

TIA's Rohlwing says it's important for the industry to recognize that while the RMA’s solution to the tire registration problem is to legislate rather than educate, they took the reverse approach when commenting on tire service life.

"During the panel on tire aging, RMA repeatedly defended their ‘educate not legislate’ approach citing the lack of scientific data that proves legislation is necessary,” Rohlwing said. "Interestingly enough, there is a similar lack of data regarding the number of retailers who supply the registration cards in accordance with the law and the percentage of consumers who follow through with the registration process."

Modern Tire Dealer will be closely following this issue, as well as others that were discussed during the symposium.

An archive of the symposium can be accessed at:

Editor’s note: While representatives of the tire industry were participating in the NTSB symposium, at the White House U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx was announcing a separate plan to educate Americans about the importance of tire maintenance and safety. Read more about that campaign, which includes promotions during the upcoming NASCAR season, here.

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