DALLAS-Standards exist for certifying the competence of automotive service technicians and retread shops. So why shouldn't there be standards for commercial tire dealerships and those who perform such equally exacting service operations as tire repair? That was the subject of a Sept. 11 workshop at the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association's convention in Dallas.
The workshop, led by dealer Jerry Bauer of Bauer Built Inc. in Durand, Wisc., who chairs the NTDRA Commercial Tire Management Council, and Gurnie Hobbs, Group Managing Director of the NTDRA's membership services group, was sparsely attended.
Nevertheless, it drew plenty of comments and suggestions from the fewer than a dozen dealers who did turn out. The session resulted, in part, from an NTDRA survey in which about half the commercial dealers who returned completed questionnaires felt certification ``has a place'' in the commercial tire business.
The meeting was billed as a ``working session,'' in which the group as a whole was to begin developing a set of standards for today's commercial tire and repair facilities.
Suggestions derived from the meeting will be taken up by the Commercial Tire Management Council, which will further explore the subject of certification, explained Mr. Hobbs, the NTDRA's staff liaison to the group during the past year.
Participants in the session were asked to reach a consensus on what should constitute a ``certified commercial dealership'' and discuss what certification could do for a commercial tire dealership.
Most of those present said the group should develop standards for certifying commercial tire technicians before attempting the far more difficult task of certifying commercial tire shops.
For one thing, dealers explained, the commercial tire business is extremely diverse. Many dealerships serve completely different tire market segments, such as over-the-road truck tires, farm and industrial tires. Therefore, it would be difficult to base certification on such criteria as the number of tires a certified commercial dealership ought to have in inventory or how many service trucks it should operate.
It would be far easier and more beneficial to establish standards covering technician training and acceptable practices associated with various operations in the commercial tire business, the group decided.
Mr. Bauer, acting on the group's consensus, said the Commercial Tire Management Council ``will start looking at how we can do this (develop certification standards) for the technician.''
Asked if certification would offer a marketing advantage for participating dealerships, virtually all the dealers answered ``yes.''
John Fisher of Pro Tire in Houston, Tex., said standards relating to tire repair will rid the industry of incompetent and fly-by-night operators who perform shoddy and sometimes dangerous repair work.
``We run in excess of 45,000 service calls a year, a lot of which is for repair service out on the road. And what we see out there is just unbelievable,'' said Mr. Fisher.
He told of encountering a tire that had gone flat after being repaired at a truck stop just 100 miles away. The tire had been slit and should never have been repaired in the field, let alone with the inner tube patch that had been used in it, he said.
Not surprisingly, the tire went flat again after internal pressure forced the patch out through the slit, where friction ultimately took its toll.
The stranded driver grew angry when Mr. Fisher's dealership refused to make an improper repair, threatening to take his business elsewhere.
``You go ahead and do that,'' Mr. Fisher said he told the trucker. ``But I'm not going to have that on my conscience. You could be going 100 miles an hour out in the west Texas desert when the tire blows out and you run over a car with eight kids in it.''
Improper tire repairs represent ``a major problem in the industry,'' he said. ``We run 35 trucks out of one location. And until a few months ago, the only tires we ever sold were as a result of the tire repair trucks. Our business is repairing tires....So we see from the inside looking out.''
Equally important, he added, is the need to educate users on what constitutes a safe and proper tire repair.
``If you had more knowledgeable (tire maintenance) people at the trucking companies, you would do away with all the people who are fixing tires but don't know what they're doing,'' he said.