TIA and safety advocates unite to reform tire registration process

July 21, 2015

The Tire Industry Association (TIA) and non-profit advocacy organizations The Safety Institute and Families for Safer Recalls have united to challenge federal lawmakers to pursue an automated process for tire recalls rather than mandatory tire registration for independent tire dealers.

The groups have jointly called on Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to support meaningful tire recall and recovery reform that includes a requirement for uniform electronic scan-ability of tires to ensure successful recall campaigns.

In a July 21 conference call for members of the media,  TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield said, "We’d like to emphasize the pending legislation allows the tire manufacturers to step away and turn the registration liability and effort over to tire retailers and would do this by resurrecting an archaic pencil and paper system that did not work in the 1970s."

Littlefield says language related to tire registration was added to the transportation funding and safety bill last week without a public hearing, public committee decision or vote, and was buried in a 500-page bill that was not available when the bill passed the committee on strictly partisan vote where the majority of votes were by proxy. "In our opinion it just shifts the burden of liability and expense to somewhere around 90,000 small business tire retailers if you figure in repair shops and service stations."

TIA and the safety organizations are urging Congress to remove the language from the bill and allow the groups involved to respond to recommendations the National Transportation Safety Board is to release later this year, Littlefield says.

Under the current system, the Tire Identification Number (TIN) – the unique code used to identify recalled tires is manually transmitted to manufacturers by consumers or tire service professionals. In the event of a recall, neither have tools that can quickly, easily and accurately determine whether tires are part of a recall so they can be recovered. The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) estimates that no more than 20% of recalled tires are recovered.

The NTSB is now in the process of investigating the adequacy of the system and developing recommendations for improvements, based on crashes caused by the failure of recalled defective tires. Rather than wait for the NTSB process to conclude, legislators are moving ahead with a bill supported by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) that would make only minor adjustments to a 40-year-old pencil-and-paper system without any language regarding recovery. The coalition of the TIA, which represents tire dealers, and safety advocates are challenging policymakers to require a viable automated solution that will ensure motorist safety by making it easier to identify recalled tires and remove them from service.

Tire registration is a laborious process of hand translating the TIN, a small black-on-black 11-12 character alpha-numeric code, from the side of a tire to a mail-in registration card or electronically by computer. The system is prone to error and labor-intensive. Technological solutions range from Radio Frequency Identification tags to laser-etched Quick Response (QR) codes. Automating tire registration means that even if vehicle ownership changes or a consumer purchases used tires, service professionals can still identify a recalled tire with a quick scan.

“Tire dealers aren’t objecting to tire registration,” says Littlefield. “The problem is that the latest proposals put all of the burden on dealers and provide no realistic methods for service providers to do the job efficiently. In order for any tire recall and recovery system to work, we must automate tire registration and the retrieval of the TIN. The proposed legislation is centered on improving registration rates when the real focus should be to improve the recovery rate of recalled tires. At the end of the day, the only way that consumers are going to benefit is when recalled tires can be identified electronically.”

On July 15, 2015, the Senate Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation passed a combined transportation funding and safety bill that includes a provision to re-establish mandatory tire registration by dealers and for NHTSA to provide a TIN-based recall lookup on its website. The bill, supported by the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) continues to shift the burden associated with recall tires from those that created it – the manufacturers – to dealers, consumers and NHTSA.

Sean Kane, founder and president of the board of directors of The Safety Institute and a long-time advocate of tire recall reform, says, “Consumers and service professionals deserve a 21st century solution to a long-broken system. The only way the system works to ensure that tires are easily identified in recalls is when they can be electronically scanned.”

“It is especially important that the tire recall system be significantly reformed. Far too many people have suffered needlessly because a recalled tire escaped the notice of a service technician, or was actually put into service because no one realized that it was recalled,” says Rich Newsome, counsel to Families for Safer Recalls. “The current proposal doesn’t achieve that. We are interested in saving lives.”

Modern Tire Dealer will follow this developing story, check back for updates.

For background on the tire registration proposal, see:

"Tire registration bill begins its journey"

"SEMA: Improve technology for tire registration"

"TIA opposes mandatory tire registration bill"

"It's a go: RMA supports new tire registration legislation"