ATLANTA—Georgia legislators are considering a bill that would ban tire retailers from doing business in the state if they fail to disclose tire adjustment rates.
Georgia HB 377 currently is in subcommittee. It requires tire dealers to post within their shops the "percentage rate of tires taken back by a manufacturer, wholesaler, distributor, retailer or seller" in relation to the total number of manufactured tires which are the same or similar in design.
The bill forbids the sale of tires at any retail location where national adjustment rates are not published for consumers.
The Georgia Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association is opposed to the bill. Executive Director James "Lindy" Bryant sent a letter to Don Wix, chairman of the Georgia House of Representatives, outlining the following objections to HB 377:
The bill requires tire dealers in Georgia to post information they do not have access to, yet a dealer can not compel manufacturers to provide that information;
All tire makers consider adjustment information to be highly proprietary;
The bill is punitive in that it prohibits the sale of tires at any location where the required "rates" must be posted. This would have an adverse effect on 1,500 retail tire outlets in the state.
The recently enacted Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act gives federal agencies sufficient authority to collect and report data to calculate adjustment rates; and
The GTDRA believes any legislative action such as HB 377 would be premature since the TREAD Act has a deadline of June 30, 2002, by which all rule-making required in the act must be complete.
Ann Wilson, vice president of government affairs at the Rubber Manufacturers Association, also wrote to Mr. Wix, urging the Georgia House to delay action on the bill until after the TREAD Act's enactment. The early warning system to be established by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, she wrote, would cover all data necessary for consumers.
Mr. Bryant told Tire Business that the bill probably is a reaction to the Firestone recall. On Feb. 14, Mr. Bryant and six dealer representatives from the GTDRA testified before the subcommittee on how harmful the bill would be to small businesses.
One of those dealers, Bob Rogers, owner of Mableton Car Care Center in Mableton, Ga., said the subcommittee hadn't classified used or new tires for the adjustment chart dealers would have to make available, noting that type of chart would be impossible to post anyway.
Mr. Rogers said a plaintiffs attorney involved in litigation against Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. was present at the hearing pushing for the bill's passage, as was the widow of Earl Shinhoster, a Georgia civil rights leader killed last summer when his Ford Explorer flipped over from a Firestone tread separation.
Another dealer who testified before the subcommittee—Tony Sexton, vice president of Toby Sexton Tire Co. in Loganville—said some of the legislators seemed to understand how poorly the bill was written and allowed the GTDRA contingency to suggest how to rewrite HB 377.
Mr. Sexton said the bill likely will be tabled until the next legislative session. Still, he and the GTDRA are watching its progress within the House closely.
"It's amazing how a bill like that, if unaddressed, could change the way a tire business is run," he said.