Convinced of the necessity of an industry checkoff program to fund consumer and technician education, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) is taking its case to tire dealers, manufacturers and suppliers once again.
As part of the new effort, TIA has renamed the proposal the Tire Initiative for Research, Education and Safety, or TIRES.
``We felt the checkoff program name meant nothing to most dealers,'' said TIA President Dick Gust. ``The new acronym now tells you exactly what the program is and should help everyone in the industry understand what it's all about.''
However, the association added, the focus and general operations of the plan remain the same. It requires congressional approval, but Roy Littlefield, TIA executive vice president, said it's important to obtain a tire industry consensus-something conspicuously lacking with the previous proposal-before the TIRES plan goes to Capitol Hill.
``That might take years, so we're talking to everyone we can,'' Mr. Littlefield said. ``We're attending 20 to 25 state dealer association meetings this year, as well as all the tire manufacturer meetings, and we hope to bring up the topic there.''
TIA also will send out surveys to members to obtain feedback and suggestions about the TIRES program, according to Mr. Littlefield. ``That may change the way we look at it, too,'' he said. ``We're not changing our position on a checkoff program; this is just part of the education process, and we don't want the idea to die.''
The TIRES program is slightly less specific than the original checkoff proposal but otherwise identical, Mr. Littlefield said. The crux of the plan is a small fee-passed on to consumers-to be charged on all new and replacement highway tires sold in the U.S.
A new organization, the National Tire Safety, Research and Education Alliance, would collect the fee and use it to fund and coordinate a national program encompassing consumer education campaigns; tire industry personnel training programs; and research and development. Some of the funds would go to finance similar programs within state and regional tire dealer associations.
Over the past few years, TIA has led the call for a coordinated national program to foster consumer education, industry training and research and development. However, other industry groups-particularly the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and the Texas Tire Dealers Association (TTDA)-have expressed grave doubts that such a program would be a success.
In November 2003, the TTDA passed a resolution opposing a checkoff program, citing fears it would become nothing more than a back-door tax on the industry.
Four months later, RMA President Donald B. Shea wrote TIA, saying his association could no longer support the checkoff concept. Besides opposition from tire makers' customers, Mr. Shea said, there also were federal appeals court decisions that declared unconstitutional the checkoff programs in the pork, beef and milk industries.
RMA and TTDA officials said they knew TIA was planning to reintroduce the check-off concept, but hadn't seen or discussed any new proposals from the association. Chuck Space, TTDA executive director, said he would discuss the TIA press release with his board of directors at a meeting the week of Jan. 17.