AKRON (Jan. 5, 2009) — The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) has made it official: Tire dealers now can register their customers' tires electronically, if they so choose.
That's good news a long time in the coming.
The ability to electronically register customers' tires should make it easier and more likely that more tires will get registered each year which, in the long run, will make the nation's roadways safer.
But there's a big if attached to that. It likely won't happen unless more tire retailers, including independent tire dealers, begin to take their obligation regarding tire registration seriously.
Ever since Congress made tire registration voluntary in 1982, tire retailers have done a poor job of providing their customers with the forms needed to register their newly purchased tires.
No one knows exactly how many of the 230 million or so consumer tires sold each year are registered. A few years ago, the Rubber Manufacturers Association estimated that only about 10 percent of the registration forms were filled out correctly and returned. That's a terrible record.
In contrast, tire makers, which had moved to electronic registration in their company-owned outlets, claimed reg¬¬is¬tration rates of 80 to 90 percent.
To illustrate just how important product registration can be, one only has to look at the recent recall of alleged faulty tire valve stems that plagued the tire industry this past year.
Because the affected stems were not registered, they were untraceable, giving the distributors who sold them little choice but to recall all of the stems in the identified lots. Tire retailers who purchased the allegedly faulty stems and installed them on customers' vehicles had to somehow determine and notify the owners of the recall. Adding to the confusion, not all of the value stems in the identified lots were bad.
Now, with electronic tire registration officially sanctioned by NHTSA, tire retailers can take the initiative when it comes to registering their customers' tires.
As the rule stands, tire retailers have three ways of complying with the tire registration mandate, according to tire registration company CIMS Inc.
They may use electronic registration, as long as the tire maker approves the form the electronic registration takes.
They may provide customers with a completed paper registration form to send in.
Or they may supply tire purchasers with a completed registration form, have them add their name and address, and then mail it in on behalf of the consumer.
NHTSA has made a good move in allowing electronic registration of tires. Now it's up to more tire retailers to take advantage of that.