New TIA executive vice president prepares for Beltway battles: Legislative issues top Littlefield's 'to-do' list

March 1, 2003

Roy Littlefield may be the Tire Industry Association's new executive vice president, but he's no stranger to the organization and its efforts to better the tire industry. From 1984 until last year's merger of the Tire Association of North America (TANA) and the International Tire & Rubber Association (ITRA), he served as ITRA's director of government affairs.

Prior to that, he spent six years lobbying for the National Tire Dealers and Retreaders Association, TANA's predecessor. Littlefield's extensive Capitol Hill experience will come in handy as the Tire Industry Association (TIA) prepares to implement its strategic plan that was announced last November. Modern Tire Dealer recently spoke with Littlefield about the various challenges TIA faces, especially on the legislative front.

MTD: What is at the top of your agenda as TIA's new executive vice president?

Littlefield: There are several issues that demand attention right off the bat: the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act, the Right to Repair Act, Superfund regulations -- I'm going to be very involved with all of these things. TIA has the World Tire Expo in March, a board meeting in May, and we'll be rolling out a new training program.

MTD: What is the most pressing issue facing TIA at the moment?

Littlefield: The association has to continue to work on its new identity; there have been five different names over the past several years. We need to look at strengthening our membership programs. Training is important. We're an industry that's facing consolidations, acquisitions -- there are so many challenges. The goal is to keep focused and get stronger.

MTD: What progress is the industry making on Capitol Hill thanks to TIA's efforts?

Littlefield: We're involved in the TREAD Act and the implementation of its regulations. We're (also) involved in a lot of (other) issues and will be focusing on three big ones: the Federal Aid Highway Bill, because of the excise tax on truck tires; the Right to Repair Act; and trying to alter the Superfund's retroactive liability provision.

MTD: How is TIA dealing with the TREAD Act?

Littlefield: We have meetings going on with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), meetings going on with tire manufacturers, and meetings going on with retreaders. When a tire manufacturer looks at a (TREAD Act) standard, it may look at it in a different light than a dealer or a retreader. We want to work with manufacturers.

MTD: What has been the most challenging aspect of working with legislators on the TREAD Act?

Littlefield: The emotion of it. Congress has not looked at tire regulations in decades; neither has NHTSA. This is a terrible time to be doing it on the heels of a major recall. What you get are knee-jerk reactions. Congress isn't in session that long -- maybe half a year. They have 2,000 to 3,000 bills introduced (to them) on a two-year cycle. That's not a lot of time for legislating. Congress is under the public microscope. They have to act quickly, and lots of time act out of emotion. The TREAD Act was an emotional response. That's what makes it difficult.

MTD: Is there other legislation on the horizon that TIA will address?

Littlefield: There's a whole host of small business issues -- product liability reform, tax issues, minimum wage issues -- with which we'll be very much involved. We're in a very good position. (TIA Director of Government Affairs) Becky MacDicken is there, I'm there -- we have a lot of ties on both sides of the aisle. The government influence of TIA will be the strongest it's ever been.

MTD: Does TIA have plans to enlist state and regional tire dealer associations in the legislative process at the local level?

Littlefield: I'm very excited about that. The industry has strong state and regional associations. I hope that's one area where there will be lots of activity. These are challenging times for small businesses; we have to stick together.

MTD: What role will independent tire dealers play in TIA's long-term strategy?

Littlefield: My belief is that they are the experts. My job is to plug their expertise into the right place at the right time. Nobody can tell their story better than they can. I want their input and sincerely believe we cannot succeed without their input.