National Energy Bill
An aggressive goal of TIA’s Strategic Plan is to launch an all-industry public relations campaign to enhance the value of the tire industry products and services.
As part of the 2007 National Energy Bill, RMA lobbied for language—and TIA supported their efforts—calling for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to oversee the development and implementation of a national consumer education program.
Unfortunately, there was nothing in the original language as to who would run the program, nor was there anything in the language about spending limits. Thus, as an industry, we now have a law on the books calling for a Federal agency to develop a national consumer education program without any spending limits and without any direction as to who should manage the program.
Will this turn out to be a much-needed and important public education campaign or is this a recipe for disaster? It could go either way.
NHTSA must determine whether this campaign should be run by the government or whether it should be outsourced to a consumer advocacy group or to an industry group with extensive experience in training like TIA. Obviously, many industry leaders have expressed legitimate concerns about how this could play out.
Let’s look at a few examples of what would happen if NHTSA outsourced this program to TIA. And then let me give you a few examples of what could happen if this program was put in the wrong hands.
If we are entrusted with this program, TIA would certainly inform consumers that tires are technological marvels that must be properly maintained. We would build on the current NHTSA safety program and the RMA “Be Tire Smart—Play Your Part” campaign, addressing such issues as tire maintenance, tire rotation, and proper tire inflation.
We would instruct consumers on the importance of inspecting tires and on the safety value of periodic motor vehicle inspection programs, why programs should be strengthened in states that currently have inspection programs, and why states that do not have programs should create them. We could even develop a model bill with reasonable yet thorough inspection procedures, and we could testify in state legislatures nationwide.
The association was part of the effort in the early 1980s to move from a mandatory to a voluntary tire registration program. At the time, tire dealers were being fined up to $10,000 per tire for failure to register new tires sold. The purpose of the registration system is to notify customers in the case of a recall. If TIA is entrusted to run this education program, we will stress to consumers the need for them to register the tires that they purchase.
The purpose of the registration system is to notify consumers in the case of a recall. Another group could put pressure on lawmakers to go back to a mandatory system with heavy fines.
We would emphasize to consumers the need to have their tires cared for by reliable, well-trained, tire technicians. For both liability and safety concerns, a trained tech is important.
For your consideration, let me give you a few examples of what could happen if this consumer education campaign ended up in less industry knowledgeable hands.
We have all seen the unfair exposes and news stories on tire aging. What if we saw a series of government-financed ads on the fact that tires are not safe after a certain period of time? Think of the confusion we would have if 10 states enacted a six-year lifespan, and 10 other states prohibited tire use after 10 years? Think of the inventory nightmare!
What if we saw a series of government-sponsored ads on used tires? If sensationalized, we could end up with legislation on Capitol Hill and in state legislatures that outright bans the sale of used tires. How do you define a used tire? Is a tire that is taken off the vehicle and repaired considered a used tire? Do you think that’s how untrained, unknowledgeable legislators would define it? And how would you enforce any such definition?
What would any type of tire aging or used tire legislation do to the tire repair or retread industries? Lawmakers could overnight challenge positive economic and environmentally friendly industries with some ill-conceived legislation.
When you have a knee-jerk reaction to consumer ads, would consumers and legislators respond to issues of handling characteristics, wheel-offs, tire matching (both the cases of rolling resistance versus safety, and the problem of marketing tires with different rolling resistance ratings) in a thoughtful, reasoned, and responsible manner?
The best organization to run this Federally-mandated consumer education program is TIA working with NHTSA, RMA, TRIB, the tire manufacturers, state associations, and industry related national associations. The stakes are potentially too high to go in any other direction.