The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) has joined a Massachusetts tire dealership and an aftermarket supplier in fighting a state legislative effort to set fuel-efficiency standards for replacement tires.
The bill is sponsored by Rep. Mark Carron, D-Southbridge, in collaboration with the Massachusetts Public Interest Research Group (MASSPIRG), the state branch of a nationwide environmental organization.
Virtually identical to a bill passed in California two years ago, the legislation would require the state to ensure that the replacement tires sold within its borders were at least as fuel-efficient as the tires on new vehicles and to mandate a labeling program to educate consumers.
According to the MASSPIRG Web site, the bill if enacted will save Massachusetts motorists an estimated 130 million gallons of gasoline and $293 million annually, as well as clear the state's air of 2.87 billion pounds of auto-exhaust pollutants every years.
However, the RMA urged the Massachusetts legislature at a June 7 hearing to postpone any action on the bill at least until better information on the subject is available. The National Academy of Sciences is studying whether the fuel savings from lower rolling resistance outweigh the safety and environmental consequences, the association noted.
Meanwhile, the California Energy Commission is awaiting the results of laboratory and on-road rolling resistance testing to determine the next steps in implementing the state's fuel efficiency rule.
The rolling resistance of a tire is influenced by many factors, said Tracey Norberg, RMA vice president for environment and resource recovery, at the hearing. Tire inflation, vehicle load and speed, tire design and environmental and road conditions are only a few of these, she added.
``When a tire is designed to maximize traction, rolling resistance increases,'' Ms. Norberg said. ``Tires also wear out faster when rolling resistance is reduced, thus increasing the number of scrap tires created per mile driven.''
Tire dealer Tony Koles, president of Montvale Tire Co. Inc., Melrose, Mass., testified against the bill, as did Neil Schlossberg of Myers Tire Supply, Randolph, Mass., who is president of the New England Tire & Service Association.
``As a tire dealer, I'm going to have tires to sell anyway, regardless of what the state mandates,'' Mr. Koles said after the hearing. ``But I testified on behalf of consumers because what this will do to them is limit their choices and their ability to put on their vehicles the safety they're looking for.''
Frank Gorke, an energy advocate for MASSPIRG who testified at the hearing, was unpersuaded by Ms. Norberg's and Mr. Koles' arguments.
``If it's a safety issue, then we have a concern about the tires on new cars,'' Mr. Gorke said after the hearing. ``Low-rolling-resistance tires on cars had better be perfectly safe.''
No action on the bill is scheduled yet, acording to an RMA spokesman.