AKRON—”Educate, not legislate.” That's the mantra the Tread Rubber and Tire Repair Materials Manufacturers' Group (TRMG) is rallying around as it takes a revamped, more public posture, in opposition to the public position the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) has taken the past couple of years, according to R.W. Mohler, president of Elgi Rubber Co. L.L.C., and vice chairman of the TRMG.
To that end, the members of the TRMG have decided to step forward and claim the mantle of technical expertise regarding tire repair, Mr. Mohler said in a recent conversation with Tire Business. The first step in the group's revamped posture is the recent release of the latest “Industry Recommended Practices for Tire Retreading & Tire Repairing,” a series of documents the group updates every couple of years together with the Tire Retread & Repair Information Bureau (TRIB). (See story on page 13.)
“In the past,” Mr. Mohler said, “we (TRMG) haven't taken a public stance on issues. Instead, we've allowed TRIB or TIA (Tire Industry Association) to speak on our behalf. Now however, we feel we need to speak for ourselves in light of the possibility of tire repair being regulated.” The TRMG's position is that it opposes the RMA's efforts to get state legislation introduced that would regulate tire repair.
This puts the two groups in awkward opposition since at least four companies—Bridgestone Americas, Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C., Goodyear and Michelin North America Inc.—are members of both groups. “The RMA has its agenda,” Mr. Mohler said, driven primarily by litigation issues. “We feel the industry, and the public, is better served by self-regulation,” he said. “We both want the same thing—proper tire repair.
It's a question of how we do that effectively.”
In the TRMG's view, education applies both to the industry professionals performing repairs and to the public, which benefits from a professional, trained industry in economic, safety and ecological terms. The TRMG plans to step up efforts to promote its stance and to disseminate its technical information. “We have to go beyond TRIB to spread the gospel, if you will, to more people,” he said.
To that end, expect to see more cooperative efforts with other industry groups, such as the American Trucking Associations' Technology and Maintenance Council, the Specialty Equipment Market Association's Tire & Wheel Council, TIA and even the RMA, Mr. Mohler said.
At the same time, the TRMG and TRIB have taken steps to make the recommended practices more widely available by pricing them affordably and allowing customers to buy just the sections that apply to them. The TRMG lauds the many training programs of the various industry participants—tire makers, retread system providers, tire repair materials producers, trade associations, individual retailers, etc.—and will support more. One key question: What constitutes “proper” tire repair?, underscores a fundamental difference between the TRMG's stance and others'.
While the TRMG agrees “proper tire repair” means off the wheel with a visual inspection and proper patching, the group also sees a need for temporary, on-the-wheel—often called “string repairs”—in certain circumstances. “In the world of roadside emergency service,” Mr. Mohler said, “it's not practical, not pragmatic to insist on an off-wheel repair.” It's the emergency responder's duty to get the motorist back on the road, he said. “It's important to note, these are 'temporary' repairs,” Mr. Mohler continued, acknowledging it's a tough job to motivate such motorists to follow through and get their temporary repair checked as soon as possible.
That's part of the education process, he said, pointing to initiatives major retailers, like Discount Tire/America's Tire, are undertaking to inform their customers about proper, safe tire repair. Another form of tire repair, sealants, is a “fuzzy” area for all participants, Mr. Mohler acknowledged.
New tire manufacturers have to consider the demands of the car industry for tire sealants as spare tire alternatives, he noted, while at the same time approving some, but not all, aftermarket sealants. Nearly all the TRMG repair materials suppliers have some sort of sealant in their product portfolios, he noted.
To reach this reporter: [email protected]; 330-865-6145.