If TIA is the puppet master, is NHTSA the puppet?

Bob Ulrich
Posted on February 14, 2013

We haven't heard a lot about the tire aging issue lately. The Tire Industry Association (TIA) worked with the Chesapeake Automotive Business Association on preventing legislation in Maryland last year, but that's about it.

Leave it to Sean Kane, however, to bring it to the forefront -- again. Kane, as many of you remember, is founder and president of Safety Research & Strategies Inc. The company is, in its own words, "an active advocate for motor vehicle safety." In the spirit of full disclosure, it also is supported by trial lawyers.

Kane is responsible for California state bill A.B. 496, which would have required tire dealers to provide notification of a tire's date of manufacture had it passed into law. Instead, it was pulled from consideration at the request of its sponsors in 2009.

He has since expanded his crusade to include used tires. He talked about the dangers of both in January at the Tire Technology Expo in Cologne, Germany. To read about what he had to say, click here. But here is an excerpt.

"As we have continued to document in our submissions to NHTSA (National Highway Traffic Safety Administration) during the last decade, tires with usable tread often end up on vehicles regardless of their age,” Kane said. “That’s why the tire age needs to be addressed with better policy.

"While the industry has settled in on practices that urge motorists to replace tires after six years, regardless of tread, this message is not finding its way into practice, and many service shops are still ignorant about the hazards of tire age, particularly in warm climates.”

(The "industry," by the way, has done no such thing, although I would have to say from the retail standpoint, more tire dealers have put that policy into practice than did so 10 years ago, when Kane began to complain.)

On his website (www.safetyresearch.net), he recently took TIA and the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) to task for pushing a bill (HB 122) in the Maryland legislature that prohibits auto and tire repair shops from fixing tires unless they demount them from the rim and inspect the tires’ interiors and exteriors.

"It also bars garages from repairing punctures or cuts in the tread area with a patch and rubber stem or combination repair unit, and makes it illegal to repair a tire with less than 2/32-inch tread depth, a sidewall puncture or cut, and a host of other RMA and TIA approved failures," he wrote.

"The fiscal and policy note attached to HB 122 concluded that a law would add major expenditures to tire shop budgets," he continued.

Now for the hammer: After pointing out that TIA fought against that Maryland tire aging bill on the basis of "protecting your business from government intrusion,” Kane had this to say:

"Apparently, government intrusion that significantly raises the cost of doing business is just fine, if the TIA and the RMA are behind the curtain, pulling all the levers."

Wow. An accurate statement or a snarky retort following defeat? Or perhaps something in between? You be the judge.

Kane has had at least one dust-up with TIA before (see "Sean Kane. TIA reps. 'Nuff said"). My guess is that he will have a few more.

At one time, Kane seemed to have the ear of NHTSA. Following its August 2007 report to Congress on tire aging, NHTSA warned consumers about the dangers of riding on “old” tires, particularly in hot weather. It also continued to evaluate “the feasibility of a regulation related to tire aging.”

NHTSA continues to evaluate the issue. Maybe Kane is just impatient.

What do you think?

Related Topics: legislation, NHTSA, RMA, Safety Research & Strategies, Sean Kane, Tire aging, Tire Industry Association

Bob Ulrich Editor
Comments ( 3 )
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  • Sean

     | about 7 years ago

    Bob Ulrich’s column If the TIA is the Puppet Master is NHTSA the Puppet? casts me as an impatient crusader who has single-handedly ginned up a non-existent controversy about the dangers of tire age and used tires in the service of trial lawyers. The issue of tire age surfaced in the U.S. in the wake of the Ford Explorer/Firestone Wilderness ATX. In 2003, NHTSA fulfilled a Congressional mandate by initiating a tire age rulemaking, which sought manufacturers’ comments. The industry did not exactly distinguish itself. Its responses ranged from denial of any problem to ignorance of testing, analysis or the very concept of tire age. Our concern about used tires is not new. We began to focus of the hazards of used tires six years ago, when we published our first article on the topic (see “Used Tires: A Booming Business with Hidden Dangers”). The RMA followed up three months later with a bulletin warning consumers about the hazards of used tires. Mr. Ulrich is right about my impatience. Unlike modern tire dealers, I don’t meet tire consumers over the counter. I meet them when their families have been riven by an entirely preventable tragedy. I frequently learn about safety hazards, like aged and used tires, when these families file a lawsuit. Helping them, by providing factual research to their lawyers, is part of our business, but my advocacy on this issue is self-funded. The industry has known about tire aging for decades. NHTSA’s been working on it for more than 10 years. In that time, too many families have lost their loved ones and friends to tire-related crashes that should have never happened. Impatient? You bet. Sean E. Kane, president, Safety Research & Strategies, Inc.

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