Maine dealers comment on inspection law amendment

May 12, 2005

The recent amendment to Maine's controversial vehicle inspection law "is a good example of what tire dealers can do if they stick together," says Dick Aronson, president of Portland, Maine-based Century Tire Co.

The amendment -- which was signed by the state's governor last week --eliminated language in revisions to the previous law that forced tire dealers to replace customers' tires with products that exactly matched their OE tires' speed rating and load carrying specifications.

"It provides some flexibility in what (replacement tire) dealers can put on a car," New England Tire & Service Association (NETSA) Executive Director Dick Cole told earlier this week.

The revisions to the inspection law that were overturned date back to September 2003 and were made without any input from tire dealers or industry organizations like the Tire Industry Association (TIA) or the Rubber Manufacturers Association.

Late last year, a TIA spokesman called them the most restrictive tire restrictions the association had ever seen.

"There was no rhyme or reason for the (revisions) in the first place," says Aronson, who had been calling for a reversal, along with NETSA, "since day one."

Jim Rocha, president of Bangor (Maine) Tire Co., approves of the recent amendment.

"I think it's going to smooth things out."

Several months ago, Rocha told that revisions had cost him potential sales.

Now, "we aren't required to put the same tire back on."

"It's a good thing (the revisions) have been amended," says Peter Wiers, store manager for Lee's Tire & Service in Topsham, Maine.

But he's worried that the amendment may inadvertently encourage unscrupulous garages to make overly drastic speed rating changes that could negatively impact vehicle handling.

"You can take a V rating down to an S rating, if there's a tire available in that size."

People who are used to driving at high speeds on a V-rated tire might notice handling differences, he says.

"When you take away the mandate that people no longer have to match what comes on their cars," customers could down-shift to tires with "less-than-adequate" speed ratings, says Albert Harmon, owner of Harmon's Tire in Ellsworth, Maine.

"I'm concerned people will cut costs."

Safety should remain dealers' top priority, he concludes.

NETSA's Cole says the association did not encounter any opposition from legislators once it was finally able to present its side of the story.

In fact, he adds, several members of the state's Transportation Committee actually admitted the tires they currently use don't meet former requirements.