WASHINGTONTechnology to allow electronic scanning of tires is the only meaningful way to reform tire recall procedures and ensure full recovery of tires in a recall, tire retailers and safety advocates agreed in a July 21 conference call.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA), the Safety Institute Inc. and Families for Safer Recalls joined in the call to declare their advocacy for the installation of radio frequency identification (RFID) chips or similar technology in tires, recording the tires' identification numbers and other relevant information to identify those tires that have been recalled.
Mechanical readability will allow dealers at the point of service to make an immediate determination, said Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of training.
TIA and the safety advocacy groups held their conference call on the same day the Senate was scheduled to invoke cloture on a transportation funding and safety bill that includes a provision called Section 4433, requiring all independent tire dealers to register tires at the point of sale and transmit the information electronically to tire manufacturers.
The current tire registration system is not working, and the new language calls for electronic registration, said Dan Zielinski, senior vice president for public affairs of the Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which has advocated a return to mandatory tire registration since a meeting of the National Transportation Safety Board in December 2014.
President Barack Obama and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) also support mandatory tire registration, judging from the administration's model transportation reauthorization billwhich contains a mandatory registration provision, said Mr. Zielinski in a telephone interview with Tire Business after the conference call was held.
While technological advances obviously will be important to tire registration, universal RFID is well in the future, according to Mr. Zielinski.
However, TIA Executive Vice President Roy Littlefield and Sean Kane, founder and president of the board of directors of the Safety Institute and founder of Safety Research & Strategies Inc., insisted universal electronic readability of tires could be accomplished now. Racing and some specialty tires have used RFID technology for years, they said.
We all come back to the idea that we have a problem that needs a 21st-century solution, Mr. Kane said. The current bill doesn't offer that.
The Safety Institute likes the bill's provision directing NHTSA to create a user-friendly page on its websiteat www.nhtsa.govwhere tire buyers could look up tire identification numbers in case of a recall, Mr. Kane said. But that would only solve part of the problem.
Mr. Littlefield disagreed with the RMA about the comparative effectiveness of the old mandatory registration system and the voluntary system established by Congress in 1982.
Mr. Littlefield claims the registration rate under the current voluntary system is more than 80 percentnot less than 20 percent as the RMA claimsbased on feedback from the nation's largest tire retailers.
Bringing back the old system, he added, would only put some 90,000 small tire dealerships and automotive repair shops in danger of ruinous fines for noncompliance.
Section 4433 is not the kind of meaningful reform we need, he said. It's buried in a 500-page bill that passed the Senate Commerce Committee by a party-line vote.
Tire manufacturers are trying to make tire dealers responsible for tire registration by reviving an archaic pencil-and-paper system that did not work in the 1970s, Mr. Littlefield claimed.
Congress should not pursue legislation that would place burdens on thousands of small businesses.
If Section 4433 should become law, Messrs. Littlefield and Kane said, they would still have options to get their recommendations on the books by working with both NHTSA and Congress.
We've approached Congress before, and we're not afraid to do so again, Mr. Littlefield said.