As president of AME International, a distributor of tire service equipment, Keith Jarman, the incoming president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), has a different background than some of his predecessors.
However, as a 30-year tire industry veteran, Jarman — who has served on TIA’s board, minus two or three years, since 2009 — is well-acquainted with the numerous challenges facing TIA’s tire dealer members.
“I have a good working knowledge of the issues,” he says with a degree of understatement. “Some of them haven’t changed. Safety and training are always important.”
In this interview, Jarman discusses TIA’s priorities in the coming year, which include significant reinvestment in the association’s training programs.
MTD: From your perspective, what are the most pressing issues facing TIA and in particular, its tire dealer members?
Jarman: If you’re in business in 2023, you probably have labor challenges in one form or fashion, so that’s going to be a big issue. Because the next generation that’s entering the workforce may be the first to have grown up with a digital device, they tend to gravitate more towards jobs with technology — even though there are certainly a lot of technologically advanced jobs in our industry and our industry is utilizing technology.
We also have talked about Right to Repair. That’s a challenge. As cars evolve, tire dealers potentially may not have access to repair manuals or codes. And one of our (other) challenges, for sure, is the consolidation (of tire dealerships.) Less members equals less dues. The locations may be there, but they’re owned by a smaller number.
MTD: What efforts are underway to increase TIA membership?
Jarman: Retention and growth are both important. I think we’ve become a little more aware, even with your own published lists, like the MTD 100, that there are a number of dealers — too many, in my opinion — who aren’t members of TIA. That’s certainly a target. The board supports that, as well. We’ve added new dealers under (outgoing TIA president) Jim Pangle’s watch and that will continue.
MTD: What investments is TIA making in its training programs and why?
Jarman: Training is always one of the big line items on our expense (sheet), but also is a big line item (for) revenue. Our board is passionate about training. Some would argue it’s probably the most important benefit TIA provides its members and even non-members. So there is continual investment.
As the industry evolves, certain categories may be prioritized over other ones. This year, we’ve already released Commercial Tire Service (updates.) We have Spanish language translation taking place. We tend to think of only the border states, but there are companies all over who have Spanish-speaking employees and are asking for that. There’s huge demand.
The biggest undertaking is the complete relaunch of our Earthmover Tire Service (ETS) program. That’s happening next year.
One thing TIA has done incredibly well is taking training into the field. We’re so much safer today than where we were and there's so much education out there — so many positive things TIA has done — yet there are far too many incidents that still occur. There are still too many (technicians) who say, ‘Well, I’ve done it this way for 20 years and haven’t gotten hurt.’ We have to normalize everybody changing tires in the same, safe manner. That’s a giant focus.
MTD: What will be the TIA board's legislative priorities during your term?
Jarman: There are three states now where there’s Right to Repair legislation — Maryland, Massachisetts and Maine. Then federally, we’ll continue to offer support of the REPAIR Act, working with members of Congress to ensure that tire dealers can repair not only the cars that are out there today, but the cars of tomorrow, as they become more technologically advanced.
MTD: Why is it important for tire dealers to get involved with TIA?
Jarman: I think it really boils down to two avenues — and you can say this is largely TIA’s purpose: training and government affairs. Our members believe in TIA training. Their technicians get the patches on their arms. It’s critically important. We’re so much further ahead than where we were 20, 25 years ago. We’re light years ahead.
On the government affairs side, if something happens on a local basis –— a lot of times, there are laws that are written up that can really be a burden to our members — we can quickly mobilize dealers in that area, who can go to that state representative or senator and (educate them.)
Stopping things that are potentially burdensome is a huge benefit. Government affairs doesn’t get the top billing that training does, but I think it’s equally important.