NASHVILLE, Tenn.-It was a picture-perfect ending to what could have been a hair-raising episode for the nation's retreaders.
There, viewing the latest retreading equipment and materials during the recent World ITRA Expo and getting a short course on the importance of retreading from International Tire & Rubber Association Executive Director Marvin Bozarth, were the same two Tennessee officials who only months earlier had authored a document threatening the very foundations of retreading in North America.
On one side of Mr. Bozarth was Tennessee state Sen. Douglas Henry (D-Nashville), who in January had sponsored a resolution urging federal authorities to ``study the feasibility of prohibiting the use of retreaded tires on commercial motor vehicles.'' Walking along on the other side of Mr. Bozarth was Major Burton ``Butch'' Lawson, head of Tennessee's Department of Safety, Commercial Vehicle Enforcement, and the man who principally wrote that resolution.
If the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration and the U.S. Congress had responded to Tennessee's request and found such a ban feasible, it would have meant a death sentence for retreading in the U.S., believes ITRA's Commercial Tire Services Director Kevin Rohlwing. The trucking industry, which counts heavily on retreading to keep costs down, would have had to depend solely on new tires, thereby sending trucking expenses-not to mention the cost of everything shipped by truck-skyrocketing.
Fortunately, Mr. Henry and Mr. Lawson had relented, removing the objectionable retread-threatening portion of their resolution-this thanks in no small part to the combined efforts of a number of industry individuals.
Now, months later, they were walking the floor of the Nashville trade show and listening to Mr. Bozarth talk of how retreading has become a high-tech business, why retreads are vital to the nation's trucking fleets and of the care and pride most retreaders invest in the their product.
The two state government officials told ITRA's director they were impressed by what they had seen and heard. In fact, Major Lawson suggested he might send Tennessee's 18 highway patrol accident investigators to the association training classes to learn more about tires and what causes them to fail.
None of this occurred by accident, of course. Rather, it was the result of the joint efforts of retreading's army of defenders who seem always on guard against potential threats to their product's future.
``Negative publicity about the retread industry often evokes knee-jerk reaction from the public. So the correct information had to get into the hands of Sen. Henry as soon as possible,'' Mr. Rohlwing wrote in the May issue of ITRA's Tire Retreading/Repair Journal.
Once alerted to the threat of Mr. Henry's resolution, Harvey Brodsky of the Tire Retread Information Bureau mailed the senator one of TRIB's information packages stressing the importance of retreading from an economic and ecological perspective.
Retreader Jimmy Crews of Tire Treads in Jackson, Tenn., and Oliver Rubber Co. Vice President-Technical Jim Osborne notified Ray Render, business manager for the Oncor Retread Division of Nashville, Tenn.-based Bridgestone/Firestone Inc. He telephoned Mr. Henry's office expressing concern and asking that the retreading portion of the resolution be removed.
Meanwhile, Mr. Render sought help from Bridgestone/Firestone's government affairs and public relations departments in reinforcing retreading's message.
As a result of these efforts, Mr. Henry withdrew his resolution, replacing it in April with another version that not only made no mention of banning retreads but stressed the importance of tire maintenance.
``Getting people like Major Lawson in touch people like Marvin or Kevin at ITRA hopefully bridges some of that educational divide that we face,'' Mr. Render said. ``It could have been something really negative, but I think it turned out really positive.''