The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB) couldn't have been more blunt in its assessment of the state of tire registration in the U.S. as the agency summed up in a recent report: It has failed, and motorists' lives are being put in jeopardy.
That doesn't seem to leave a lot of wiggle room, but in fact the reportreferenced in a story on the front pageshould be the impetus to finally achieve a workable registration system.
As the rhetoric and debate heat up over whether to mandate tire registration to improve registration and recall numbers, the federal government and the industry should focus their efforts first on developing an effective and universal way to register and track tires. Then follow that up with a method to house this information in a national database rather than relying on mandating registration as a cure-all.
This includes being able to link the tire identification number (TIN) automatically to the vehicle identification number (VIN).
Capturing this information ideally should take place with a scan tool linked to the point-of-sale software at every tire dealership, independent service shop and every other outlet that services tiresand that includes car dealerships. This data could be downloaded each day and sent to a clearing house or national database and stored until needed.
Until such a system is available, the industry will continue to have trouble ensuring that all tires are registered accurately, that the information is up-to-date, able to be tracked and retrievable at a moment's notice.
Mandating tire registration without such a system in place is an effort destined for failure.
The old-fashioned postcard approach of the past 30 years just won't cut it in a market where 200 million new replacement passenger tires, for example, are sold each year, not to mention tens of millions of light truck tires and all of the used tires sold and resold.
There is little disagreement that the current approach to registering tires is not working, but there are no hard statistics that we know of that reliably quantify who the biggest culprits are or how big of a problem this really is. Lots of numbers and statistics are being thrown around.
One measure is the NTSB's report, indicating the recovery rate in vehicle recalls is 78 percent, while that for tire recalls is only about 44 percent. Of that, the agency said 24 percent are accounted for by natural attrition rather than positive responses to recalls.
Clearly there is room for improvement.
As the federal government and industry consider the tire registration issue, other questions come to mind:
c Are tires that come on new and used vehicles registered? Whose responsibility is this?
c What role should tire manufacturers, private branders and importers have in ensuring that their customers (dealers, retailers, etc.) understand the tire registration requirements and have the means to register these products electronically?
c What about tires bought online? Who is responsible for registering these tires?
c Why should a retailer be responsible for registering their customer's tires?
c Who is responsible for transferring the tire registration if a vehicleor the tiresare sold?
c How will used tiresthose taken off a vehicle and resoldbe registered and tracked?
The issue is complicated, which is why a universal registration system that involves all parties is needed. That's the only way the percentages of tires registered will improveand the well-being of motorists will be safeguarded.