HILTON HEAD ISLAND, S.C.The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA) and one of its largest members, Michelin North America Inc., are united in their call for both a return to mandatory tire registration and a regulation setting minimum performance standards for both rolling resistance and wet traction.
This, among other things, was the message of both Michelin President and CEO Pete Selleck and Tracey Norberg, RMA senior vice president and corporate counsel, at the 31st annual Clemson University Global Tire Industry Conference, held April 15-17 in Hilton Head.
A provision to place new tire registration requirements on tire retailers at the point of sale is in the Obama administration's Generating Renewal, Opportunity and Work with Accelerated Mobility, Efficiency and Rebuilding of Infrastructure and Communities throughout America (GROW America) legislation. The bill is designed to provide multi-year reauthorization of highway funding after years of stopgap funding measures.
The RMA called for a return to mandatory registration at a December 2014 conference of the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). RMA spokespersons, however, said they did not approach the White House to have a mandatory registration provision in the GROW America package.
Recall effectiveness has been a new issue over the past few years, Ms. Norberg said in her Clemson speech. Where do tires fit in the recall landscape?
Federal statistics show that, out of 236 million auto parts recalled between 2004 and 2014, tires comprised 5.1 million of the total, according to Ms. Norberg. This is only a small fraction of the total, she said, but still not an inconsiderable number.
Of the ways to identify recalled tires, tire registration is the biggest one, Ms. Norberg said. But independent dealers have had very low registration rates since voluntary registration became law in 1982.
On the other hand, dependent dealersthat is, company-owned storeshave registration rates of more than 90 percent, she added.
Even if all the tire registration cards were handed out to consumers at the point of sale, the problem would be to get consumers to mail them in, she said. Once they've walked out the dealer's door, we've lost them.
Other ways of finding recalled tires, Ms. Norberg continued, would include collecting vehicle identification numbers during tire registration and creating a user-friendly website for consumers to look up recalls. NHTSA has an area on its www.safercar.com site to do just that, she said, but even people in the tire industry had a hard time navigating it.
That's not a good thing, she said.
In his keynote speech at the conference, Mr. Selleck said he too endorses a return to mandatory registration.
We manufacture and sell a safety product, he told conference attendees. Every tire we can't get at in a recall is a problem. Some may have worn out, but we can't account for them.
Just before the Clemson conference began, the Tire Industry Association (TIA) issued a statement opposing the mandatory registration language in the GROW America Act.
(T)here is no timetable for the (Transportation) Secretary to initiate the rulemaking, no specific language regarding how long the records must be maintained by the distributor/dealer, no indication on how retailers would be required to electronically transmit the information, and most importantly it could still lead to a mandatory system, TIA said.
RMA officials said they would not respond to the TIA release.
As for rolling resistance and wet traction, the RMA has developed baseline proposals for performance in both areas, and has presented these proposals to Congress, according to Ms. Norberg.
A rolling resistance standard needs to be coupled with a minimum performance standard for wet traction, she said, noting that the two standards must be a package dealotherwise, a push for lower rolling resistance could lead to shortchanging wet traction, with disastrous results for safety.
About 15 percent of the tires sold in the U.S. would not meet the RMA proposed standards, Ms. Norberg contended. Mr. Selleck made it clear he has no trouble with excluding those tires from the U.S. market.
The rolling resistance and wet traction standards would enhance consumer safety, improve vehicle fuel efficiency, encourage innovative research and, above all, bring the U.S. in line with the European Union and other developed nations in tire standards, Mr. Selleck said.
Imports to Europe of low-tech tires dropped off drastically in 2012, when the European Union introduced its rolling resistance and wet grip standards, he said. Guess where those tires are going now?
The RMA standards are separate from the pending tire labeling and consumer education provisions of the tire fuel-efficiency final rule promulgated by NHTSA in March 2010. According to the rule, the labels must contain ratings for rolling resistance, traction and treadwear.
The latest word from the agency, Ms. Norberg said, is that it will issue a supplemental notice of proposed rulemaking on tire labels and consumer education by Nov. 30, 2015, with comments due by Jan. 31, 2016.
There is no place where consumers can get information on all tire models, Ms. Norberg said. I hope that's what the ratings will do.
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