BOWIE, Md.—If there is anything Randall Groh wants people to remember about his tenure as president of the Tire Industry Association (TIA), it's this phrase: "Tire Safety Starts Here."
"This was related to something I started the year before I became president," Mr. Groh told Tire Business in the waning days of his year as TIA president. He was looking for a more consumer-friendly tagline and marketing campaign so that retail customers of TIA-member stores would understand the value of TIA training programs.
"When you look at our focus on training, that is something that's important to bring to consumers, and I wanted to do that," he said.
Designed for TIA members with TIA-certified technicians, the Tire Safety Starts Here campaign offers those members free promotional tools emphasizing the technicians' TIA certification as an incentive to customers. The free promotional kit includes a showroom poster, a service truck decal and 50 tri-fold brochures describing either the Bowie-based trade group's Automotive Tire Service (ATS) certification program or the Commercial Tire Service (CTS) certification program, whichever is more relevant to the TIA member's business.
Mr. Groh also saw the necessity of increasing TIA's consumer presence on the Web, so he was instrumental in developing tire safety videos for free download.
The first two videos, he said, were about proper tire repair and tire pressure monitoring systems (TPMS). A third video, due out soon, covers maintenance of proper tire pressure.
In the realm of training, TIA continued to expand its offering under Mr. Groh's leadership, with the Farm Tire Service (FTS) certification program being issued in the past year.
"Farm tires were a nice addition to automotive, earthmover and commercial tires," he said. "Another thing that was very helpful was that a number of new locations were added to the ATS Certification tour. We made a lot of great contacts with technical colleges, and trained a lot of new technicians this year."
To get wider participation in its training, TIA took its certification programs on the road, with stops in various cities to provide hands-on tutelage to tire dealership personnel.
On another front, because of the ongoing gridlock in Congress this past year, government affairs were a less fertile area for TIA in 2013 than in the past, according to Mr. Groh. "You take a stand on something, but it takes forever to get done," he said.
Nevertheless, TIA had some solid successes in government in 2013, he said. These included:
- An extension through 2013 of the Work Opportunity Tax Credit, which provides employers with a credit for the first-year wages of the qualified veterans they hire;
- Raising the threshold on the estate tax; and
- Continued opposition to excise taxes on tread rubber and retreaded truck tires.
As immediate past president of TIA in the coming year, Mr. Groh will still have an important role to play in the association. Although he hadn't had any formal meetings with incoming TIA President Ken Brown as of Oct. 7 (the date of the this interview), he said he planned to meet with him soon, and that the two had gotten to know each other at meetings within TIA and with the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA).
One issue Mr. Groh said he would like to see the tire industry address going forward is tire life and tire aging.
"We've had a lot of conversations with RMA members on this issue," he said. "We've collected statistics from RMA members that have statistics on tire age and tire life."
TIA is updating its website, Mr. Groh said, and one feature the revised website will have is access to technical bulletins from tire makers, giving their recommendations on tire service life. He noted that some of them differ on whether service life should be counted from the date of manufacture or the date a tire is mounted on a vehicle.
"One hope I have is that TIA can come up with a best practices recommendation for dealers on how to deal with service life as it relates to tire age," he said.
Mr. Groh said he also would like to see an ever stronger relationship between TIA and the RMA.
"We invited (RMA President) Charlie Cannon to our board of directors meeting," he said. "He came and spoke to us. I would like to see that continue."
A native and lifelong resident of Wisconsin, Mr. Groh is vice president of marketing for U.S. Auto Force, a company he joined 20 years ago when it was still known as U.S. Oil Co. Inc.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 202-662-7211.