As the saying goes, politics truly do make strange bedfellows, and such is the case with the ongoing debate over a proposal to return to mandatory tire registration.
The issue is heating up because the U.S. Senate has been considering legislation that would call for a return to mandatory registration of tires, either as stand-alone legislation or as a provision in the transportation funding reauthorization currently being debated in Congress.
The Tire Industry Association (TIA), which advocates for independent tire dealers, is strongly opposed to going back to mandatory registration. It claims that the proposals would leave dealers liable for fines of up to $700,000 per location.
As part of its lobbying efforts, TIA joined with advocacy groups including the Safety Institute as well as Families for Safer Recalls in calling for the use of radio frequency identification chips or other similar technology to record the tires' identification numbers and other information to be used to identify tires that have been recalled.
The Safety Institute was founded by Sean Kane. He and TIA leaders have a long history of never agreeing on any tire safety issues. In fact, Mr. Kane's biggest advocacy issue on the tire front has been tire aging, and TIA and Mr. Kane have consistently opposed each other on this front.
But on the issue of tire registration, they both want what they call a 21st-century solution to the handling of tire recalls. They also want Congress and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) to wait until the National Transportation Safety Board makes its recommendations on tire safety later this year.
The Rubber Manufacturers Association (RMA), which sided with TIA on tire aging, strongly supports a return to mandatory registration. The group, which lobbies for the tire manufacturers, claims since voluntary tire registration was put in place in 1982, registration of new tires at independent tire dealerships has fallen to the 15 to 20-percent range.
TIA strongly disagrees with the RMA's characterization of registration rates, arguing they are in the 80-percent range and are much higher than the old mandatory system. TIA officials accuse the RMA of wanting to make tire dealers responsible for registration.
In the end, the sides are lined up because of the constituents they serve. The RMA wants what is best for tire manufacturers, TIA lobbies for independent dealers, and the Safety Institute, looking out for consumers, will push for making recalls as complete as possible.
So past allegiances or oppositions all are subject to change, depending on the subject at hand.
This editorial appeared in Rubber & Plastics News, an Akron-based sister publication of Tire Business.