WASHINGTON-Spokesmen for retreaders in and outside Washington are trying to determine the significance of an amendment to the omnibus spending bill which seems to give a brief reprieve to retread tire quality listings at the General Services Administration. ``The conferees believe that GSA should continue to publish the qualified product listing for retread tires until April 3, 1997,'' states the provision added to the bill in House-Senate conference.
``During this time GSA should share with the Department of Transportation its testing information to facilitate the development of the Department of Transportation standards for non-passenger retread tires,'' it adds. This provision was part of the final legislation signed by President Clinton Sept. 30.
For retreaders, the amendment creates more questions than it answers. For one thing, it requests rather than requires the GSA to extend its use of the Qualified Products List for retreads beyond the current Dec. 31, 1996, cutoff date, and to share quality testing information with the DOT.
Also, in its preamble, it postulates the DOT will issue ``safety standards for non-passenger retread tires.'' But the QPL testing at the GSA is for quality, not safety, so a safety standard for non-passenger retreads wouldn't take the place of the QPL.
There is already a DOT safety standard covering passenger retreads. Any new standard for truck and bus retreads, or extension of the passenger retread statute to include truck and bus retreads, ``won't have the same information and scope as the QPL,'' said Steven Butcher, vice president-technical and standards for the Rubber Manufacturers Association.
Despite the assertions in the bill, the DOT does not have a non-passenger retread safety standard brewing. But the agency said it will ``comply with the language'' of the amendment.
``I talked to the DOT, and even they didn't know it (the amendment) was in there,'' said Marvin Bozarth, executive director of the International Tire & Rubber Association. ``I think it was put in just in case they decide to make a rule.''
Finally, according to the preamble, ``The GSA no longer has a purchasing program for tires.'' While the Federal Supply Schedule for tires ended last Dec. 31, meaning other agencies must make their own contracts, this does not mean the GSA has given up buying tires.
Earlier this year, the agency issued multiple-award contracts for both new and retread tires. Bandag Inc. and Goodyear won the retread contract, while virtually every major tire maker is part of the new tire contract.
These contracts are good through Sept. 30, 2001, with an option to extend until 2006.
Rep. Jim Lightfoot, R-Iowa, sponsored the QPL amendment to the omnibus spending bill. Bandag, the Muscatine, Iowa, retreading giant, asked Mr. Lightfoot to take action to save the QPL, although there was no word on whether the amendment as passed was what Bandag expected.
A GSA spokesman said the agency ``helped in crafting the legislation.'' He did not comment further, other than to say the amendment would have no adverse effect on the GSA's operations.
``I don't blame Bandag for asking for an extension of the QPL,'' Mr. Bozarth said. ``If I had spent that much money to qualify my retreads for government purchase, I'd want the QPL extended too.''