Published on June 27, 2014

TIA supports ‘early warning’ legislation

By Miles Moore, Senior Washington Reporter

WASHINGTON (June 27, 2014) — The Tire Industry Association (TIA) is supporting legislation that would allow public access to early warning reports by tire and auto manufacturers.

The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) opposes the Motor Vehicle Safety Act of 2014. TIA, however, said it favors the bill’s emphasis on public transparency for voluntary tire registration and safety recalls, while opposing its provisions that would be onerous or punitive against tire manufacturers.

The Motor Vehicle Safety Act was introduced in the Senate March 25 by Sens. Edward Markey, D-Mass., and Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn. On April 4, an identical bill was introduced in the House of Representatives by Reps. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif. The TIA Board of Directors voted June 20 to support the bill.

Among other things, the Motor Vehicle Safety Act would:

• Require tire and auto makers to include additional information on fatal accidents in their quarterly submissions to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration’s (NHTSA) Early Warning Reporting system;

• Require that Early Warning information be disclosed publicly unless exempt under the Freedom of Information Act;

• Require NHTSA to rewrite its Confidential Business Information rule in favor of maximum public availability of Early Warning information;

• Require NHTSA to improve public accessibility of data posted to its website;

• Require that senior executives of tire and auto makers certify the accuracy and completeness of the information they submit to NHTSA;

• Increases civil penalties for safety reporting violations to a maximum of $200 million;

• Allow individuals to appeal the denial of a safety petition; and

• Restrict post-employment activities of NHTSA officials.

The RMA wants to keep the Early Warning Reporting system as it now stands, according to Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs. “It provides NHTSA with effective tools to determine whether violations have occurred,” he said.

Much of the information in Early Warning Reporting submissions are allegations that have yet to be proved, Mr. Zielinski said. “It wouldn’t be appropriate to publicize this information without a full investigation.”

In the latest TIA Weekly Legislative Update, TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield said the association wants to retain the current voluntary tire registration system and forestall any move to return to mandatory registration.

“The TIA Board of Directors saw the Motor Vehicle Safety Act as a possible vehicle to tell Congress what we as an association and as an industry are doing to increase public awareness in this area, and to express to Congress our frustration with NHTSA that the tire consumer education program required by law in the Energy Act of 2007 has stalled in the bureaucracy,” Mr. Littlefield said.

TIA wants to make the case to Congress that improving tire registration rates and increasing transparency of safety recalls are the proper province of the consumer education program, according to Mr. Littlefield.

However, TIA stands united with the RMA and other industry associations in opposing those provisions of the Motor Vehicle Safety Act that would put unfair, unrealistic burdens on tire manufacturers, he said.

The two bills are now before the Senate Commerce Committee and the House Energy and Commerce Committee. No hearings have been scheduled, according to THOMAS, the Library of Congress legislative search engine.

To reach this reporter: mmoore@crain.com.

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