Editorial: Bills Would Have Hurt Tire Dealers, Manufacturers

March 20, 2024

Independent tire dealers in Washington state narrowly avoided the heavy hammer of bureaucracy when two bills that would have curtailed their ability to do business stalled before they could be signed into law. 

If ratified, Washington House Bill 2262 and its companion, Senate Bill 6304, would have been disastrous for Washington tire dealers.  

The back-to-back bills also would have placed expensive, unfair burdens on tire manufacturers by establishing completely unnecessary consumer tire rolling resistance regulations.

And frighteningly enough, this only would have been the tip of the iceberg. 

Senate Bill 6304, whose language, in some cases, was identical to the verbiage found in House Bill 2262, also called for: 

  •  The creation of a database of replacement tires offered for sale or distribution in the state of Washington; 
  • “Requirements for any tire brand name owners and tire manufacturers with replacement tires in production offered for sale or distribution in the state to report information” to Washington state officials; 
  • Establishment of a rating system that would denote the energy efficiency of replacement tires “based on their rolling resistance coefficient,” with ratings displayed for consumers at the point of sale, and; 
  • Establishment of testing procedures “in alignment with enacted regulations by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.” 

The bill would have given the Washington State Department of Commerce the ability to prohibit the sale of replacement tires that do not meet minimum energy efficiency standards mandated by legislators and would have allowed inspections of replacement tires to be conducted.  

It also would have given the Washington State Department of Commerce — “or another state agency, as designated by the department” — the ability to issue warnings to “tire brand name owners and tire manufacturers who violate rules adopted to implement” rolling resistance regulations. 

Repeat violators would have been subject to a civil penalty "ranging from $100 to $10,000 per occurrence," according to the bill's verbiage. 

Furthermore, the bill encouraged the Washington State Department of Commerce “to coordinate with the California Energy Commission” in order to “pursue common standards, reporting requirements and labeling that reduces compliance costs for the (tire) industry.”  

You might remember that the state of California has been looking to establish its own set of consumer tire rolling resistance mandates. 

Both the U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association (USTMA) and the Tire Industry Association (TIA) were quick to state their opposition to both pieces of legislation. 

The USTMA said it opposed provisions in the Senate bill that would have granted “authority to the state’s Department of Commerce to make significant decisions about how tires are manufactured, sold, and used in the state. 

"The flawed proposal would severely reduce the selection of tires available to consumers and disadvantage Washington tire retailers, leaving consumers to travel to neighboring states to find the tires that meet their driving and vehicle needs.

"The misguided policy also incentivizes market decisions by some tiremakers that could adversely impact the safety and longevity of tires available for sale in Washington by reducing tread depth and decreasing wet traction performance, in turn increasing the number of waste tires produced in the state each year. 

"Reduced selection will mean higher prices which will have a disparate effect on more price-sensitive consumers, leading to increased purchases of unsafe used tires.

"Lastly, the proposed policy does not account for legitimate vehicle applications where a tire’s traction performance is more important than fuel efficiency.” 

In a statement provided to MTD, TIA said it was “deeply concerned by the potential consequences” of Senate Bill 6304. 

"Much like the House bill, there are concerted efforts to advance an agenda that contradicts our stance on safeguarding a retailer's right to sell certain tires and ensuring consumer freedom in choosing their preferred tires." 

Emboldened by Washington and California's efforts, could other states introduce their own bills? It will be our duty as an industry to remain vigilant and fight against the imposition of similar directives. 

About the Author

Mike Manges | Editor

Mike Manges is Modern Tire Dealer’s editor. A 25-year tire industry veteran, he is a three-time International Automotive Media Association award winner and holds a Gold Award from the Association of Automotive Publication Editors. Mike has traveled the world in pursuit of stories that will help independent tire dealers move their businesses forward. Before rejoining MTD in September 2019, he held corporate communications positions at two Fortune 500 companies and served as MTD’s senior editor from 2000 to 2010.

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