While the tire community has been battered lately by legislators looking to impose more restrictions on the industry, tire manufacturers and tire dealers got some good news recently on the state and national levels, proving that lobbying efforts on their behalf are paying off.
Nationally, the tire industry breathed a sigh of relief after learning that a congressional conference committee had dropped an amendment to the Senate energy bill that called for a National Tire Fuel Efficiency program.
On the surface, the amendment looked promising, especially considering the recent run-up in oil and gasoline prices.
Had it been approved, tire makers would have had to make all their replacement passenger tires and light truck tires with the same or better fuel efficiency as original equipment tires. That supposedly would have improved vehicle mileage, translating into less oil consumption.
But the amendment was premature. It was added to the energy bill prior to the completion of two studies on the subject: one conducted by the National Academy of Sciences, the other by the California Energy Commission. The amendment was changed, by the way, in committee to include more reporting requirements on top of those already mandated by the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation (TREAD) Act.
To address the tire fuel efficiency issue effectively, legislators and the tire industry first need to see the results of the two studies. Only then can knowledgeable decisions be made about whether requiring more fuel-efficient replacement tires really will have an impact on fuel efficiency or if tradeoffs in such areas as traction and treadlife negate any gains.
For now, at least, thanks to lobbying efforts by the Rubber Manufacturers Association, the industry needn't worry about having to change the way it goes about building replacement passenger and light truck tires.
The other victory came in Missouri where the state legislature recently restored the 50-cent fee charged on each new tire and added a similar fee for new car batteries sold in the state.
About a year ago, the Missouri General Assembly failed to reinstate the state's scrap tire fee that had been in place since 1990, despite having the chance to do so in 10 different proposed bills.
Not surprisingly, once the fee lapsed and the income stream for scrap tire abatement stopped, tire piles started to rebuild. The state even experienced two separate scrap tire fires in the interim, which no doubt helped prompt legislators to act.
Still, it's better late than never, and another potentially detrimental tire-related legislative decision-or in this case indecision-has been rectified.