It's fortunate tire dealers and retreaders have a national organization like the Tire Industry Association to represent them as federal and state governments get more active in establishing legislation involving tires.
The latest issue involves efforts by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration to establish a test for tire aging as part of the newly updated tire standards.
Finding out what happens to tires as they grow older makes sense in light of Congress' drive to improve tire safety through the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
But it's also crucial for NHTSA to have such information before it considers mandating an expiration date on tires-a suggestion made by Strategic Safety L.L.C., a motor vehicle safety research organization in Alexandria, Va.
This request follows a Sept. 4 warning by the Tyre Industry Council, a London-based organization funded by tire makers and dealers, urging motorists to replace all tires 10 years or older on their vehicles and not to use ``new'' tires six years or older.
On the surface, putting an age limit on tires would seem positive for tire makers and dealers, providing a one-time spike in demand and guaranteeing a regular replacement cycle. And if there were any problems with older tires, this would remove them from service.
But establishing an age limitation on tires is not as clear-cut as putting an expiration date on a bag of chips or carton of milk.
For one, it would be difficult to establish a one-size-fits-all regulation, since not all tires are built the same nor do they have the same chemical makeup. In addition, storage and handling can affect a tire's aging.
An age limit likely also would change the supply-and-demand dynamics of the new and used tire markets, not to mention force consumers and businesses to buy tires more frequently- not necessarily a bad thing.
For example, it could impact how tires are bought and stored. Wholesalers and dealers might become more cautious in placing large orders knowing tires would start to lose their value if not sold within a year or two. Tire production schedules could be affected too, with tire makers looking to avoid building too much inventory that could grow old.
Enacting tire age limits probably would increase, at least temporarily, the number of scrap tires generated annually and would decimate the used tire market.
Retreaders might be forced to remove well-maintained casings from service prematurely. Spare tires, including those never used, might have to be discarded once their mandated life span is up.
NHTSA is now seeking comments on tire age testing. With so much at stake, tire dealers through TIA should voice their concerns regarding this subject. Now is the time to be heard before any new regulation is established.