Legislatively, 1994 was a year of frustration for those seeking passage of bills favorable to tire and auto service interests. The President and Congress fought long and hard over health care, without resolution. This controversy took so much time it left little opportunity for Congress to consider other legislation the auto aftermarket cared about.
This is what happened in the federal government in 1994:
Health care. Opposed by every pro-business group in the U.S., the Clinton administration could not obtain passage of its national health care package, which would have required all employers to provide health insurance to their employees and pay 80 percent of the premiums.
Compromise health care bills, designed to provide national coverage while placating the critics of the Clinton plan, also died.
Scrap tires. The failure of Resource Conservation and Recovery Act reauthorization also left advocates of federal scrap tire laws without a vehicle for passage. Most sponsors of scrap tire legislation either retired or were defeated in the 1994 election.
The year also marked another setback for proponents of Section 1038 of the Intermodal Surface Transportation Efficiency Act, which mandates the states' use of crumb-rubber-modified asphalt in federally funded highway projects.
Rep. Bob Carr, D-Mich., attached an amendment to last year's Transportation Department appropriations bill, forbidding the Federal Highway Administration to use its funds to promote or enforce Section 1038. The Clinton administration included the Carr amendment in this year's DOT bill.
Asphalt rubber supporters failed to get a compromise amendment passed.
Product liability. A product liability reform bill has been introduced in every Congress since 1981.
This year's bill died in the Senate June 29 after two unsuccessful votes to end a filibuster. The legislation would have required the plaintiff in a product liability lawsuit to prove ``conscious, flagrant indifference'' to safety on the part of the manufacturer. Tire dealers, however, opposed its allowing plaintiffs to sue retailers if manufacturers, for some reason, could not be brought to court.
Superfund. Reauthorization and reform of Superfund was the only environmental issue in the 103rd Congress on which all factions of Congress and the public could agree. Unfortunately, time ran out in the legislative year before the bill could reach the House or Senate floor.
This year's Superfund bill did not change the rules for retroactive and joint-and-several liability, as small business wanted. It did, however, offer provisions for expedited settlement of small business liability in Superfund cleanups. It also contained provisions for third-party allocation of cleanup costs at a Superfund site, designed to prevent large waste generators from suing smaller ones.
Tire rolling resistance. As required by President Clinton's Global Climate Action Plan, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration took steps toward establishing government ratings for tire rolling resistance and fuel economy.
NHTSA proposed adding a rolling resistance grade to Uniform Tire Quality Grading or replacing the temperature resistance grade with rolling resistance.
Michelin North America recommended fuel economy grading in the first place. But Goodyear, Bridgestone/Firestone Inc., the Private Brand Tire Group and the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association came out against the proposal. General Tire said it would support a voluntary, NHTSA-industry effort to develop rolling resistance test methods and information.
Vehicle emissions inspection/maintenance. The Environmental Protection Agency fought a losing battle to bring states into line with its plans for a high-tech, centralized I/M testing program.
The Maine and Pennsylvania legislatures rescinded their I/M programs, with the latter overriding Gov. Robert Casey's veto. California received approval for a hybrid system mixing centralized testing facilities with testing by auto repair shops, and Virginia fought hard for a similar plan.
In December, EPA Administrator Carol Browner promised to help states devise effective alternatives to the agency's I/M plan.
Asbestos/brake cleaning. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration promulgated a final rule on workplace exposure to asbestos. The proposed rule identified aerosol cleaning of brake drums as a ``preferred'' method of asbestos containment, but the final rule granted preferred status only to mechanical brake cleaning.
Aerosol brake cleaning is still permitted under the final rule, but only if it meets an even more stringent asbestos exposure limit than that allowed for mechanical cleaning.
Brake aerosol manufacturers filed suit against OSHA, which postponed the effective date of the final rule until April 1995.