PHOENIX — Outgoing Tire Industry Association President Mason Hess has a simple piece of advice for his successor.
"Don't blink, Jim!"
Hess, director of global mining division at Purcell Tire & Service Center, is handing the association's reins over to incoming President Jim Pangle, business development specialist at Fountain Tire after a tenure that was "great, but went too fast."
Hess, via email, looked back on a year that saw the industry resuming in-person gatherings after a pandemic pause and contending with looming government regulations, while TIA hired a new CEO, worked to rebuild its website and continued to attract younger folks to the industry.
The 2022 TIA OTR Conference, which returned in February after a two-year hiatus, was a particular highlight.
"(It was) so good to finally getting back with our industry friends after COVID ... Made me appreciate it that much more and made me realize how important getting together with industry colleagues is," he said.
The 2023 conference is set for Feb. 21-23 in Tucson, Ariz.
Hess also participated in the new Earthmover Tire Service (ETS) training video shoot in Garner, Iowa. "So honored to be around all that industry greatness that came out to help," he said.
In late 2021, TIA welcomed new CEO Dick Gust after the retirement of longtime CEO Roy Littlefield III.
"There was so much work done behind the scenes with our team and Roy. To finally get it done was great," Hess said. "Dick has really hit the ground running and has done a great job looking at every corner of our association. He has also elevated the staff around him that we all count so much on. (I'm) excited for the association's future."
Hess said technology would be a particular focus of his presidency. The foundation of that tech push is a new website, with a release date soon on the horizon, he said.
The new site will have not only a new look and easier interface, but "the advanced coding in the background that will allow us to implement member access points for their information as well as 'member only' digital media as we grow the site."
"(Kevin Rohlwing, chief technical officer) and his team have been successfully developing this media and material throughout our training module updates," he said, adding that this foundation is setting the stage for a TIA app.
Part of that tech push is to help attract young people to the tire industry, Hess said last year. That work is ongoing.
"We continue to preach the word on this wonderful industry. We must continue to educate them on the career, not just the 'starter jobs,'" he said. "It is important that younger folks know that the tire industry has one of the fastest career paths to management and substantial compensation."
It's not uncommon to see a "young hard-working go-getter" move quickly from tech to assistant to manager and then on to regional manager and director at young ages, he said.
"We want these 'younger folks' to see their 'starter jobs' as just the launch pad to rewarding and honorable career."
The industry has other challenges on the horizon. One of the biggest is government regulations, Hess said.
"There are some terrifying things being proposed in Washington by people that do not clearly understand our industry and more importantly how it will be affected by some of the proposed legislation," he said.
He pointed to proposed state legislation that would classify scrap tires as hazardous waste.
"It this passes, our industry will suffer substantial costs that ultimately will be passed on to the end-user. Smart sustainability of scrap legislation continues to need TIA's education and input," he said.
Other states, including California, are considering proposals that would require replacement tires to have the same fuel efficiency as OE tires, which would limit vehicle customization, he said.
Hess also pointed to right-to-repair laws on both the state and federal level, which TIA has supported.
Telematics vehicle data and key schematics are being withheld from the industry so that repairs must be done by car manufacturers, he said.
"This will crush healthy competition of car dealers, independent service centers, and aftermarket vendors," Hess said. "TIA continues to 'fight the good fight' for our industry and members. We encourage members to educate themselves and get involved."
TIA is planning a D.C. lobby day in 2023 and hopes the industry will attend and support, he said.
Hess plans to stay active in TIA.
"Getting involved over the last seven years has introduced me to some very special people in our industry and the TIA association," he said. "Being exposed to these superstars reminded me of the greatness of this industry."
There are numerous benefits to getting involved in the association, from networking to training to getting the opportunity to serving as an industry watchdog, he said.
"One of the most important benefits for our servicing dealer network is the safety training certifications," Hess said.
"I have seen behind the curtain of what today's lawsuits can do to companies that are not well trained and documented by a proven industry standard. Some companies just train from 'the guy that learned from the guy that learned from the guy…'
"I must stress the importance that are documented certification of industry standard plays in the legal world. The difference is in the millions! This benefit is invaluable."