AKRON—The Tire and Rim Association, the standardizing body for the U.S. tire, rim and valve industry, has been in existence for 110 years.
For 44 of those, Joseph F. Pacuit was on the staff of the TRA; for 33 he served as its executive vice president. Pacuit retired in favor of TRA Secretary Rudy Concepcion on Dec. 31.
Except for a summer working at Goodyear in his junior year at Cleveland's Case Institute of Technology (now Case Western Reserve University), Pacuit—a native of Akron—never has worked anywhere except TRA.
"My best friend and I were talking about starting our own business straight out of college," said Pacuit, who graduated from Case with a bachelor's degree in mechanical engineering. "For various reasons, it didn't work out."
Fortunately, the man in whom Pacuit confided his ambitions told him he could come to work for him any time he wanted. That man was Claude Dykes, TRA executive vice president in 1969.
Pacuit joined TRA as a technical assistant, worked his way up to secretary, and he became executive vice president when Dykes retired in 1980.
The Clincher Tire Manufacturers' Association, forerunner to the TRA, was founded in 1903, according to the TRA website. The TRA name was first adopted in 1917, and the organization's current incarnation began in 1933.
Seven tire manufacturers and four rim producers founded the organization; they realized the need to help motorists who needed a special rim for each make of tire they bought from the few scattered retail outlets that existed at the time.
Today, TRA boasts 18 tire manufacturing and private brand members, 14 rim and/or wheel manufacturing members and four allied parts members.
It compiles for sale an annual yearbook containing all TRA standards and related information for tires, rims and allied parts for ground vehicles. It also issues an aircraft yearbook providing TRA standards and related information for aircraft tires, a flash drive containing both publications and engineering design publications covering both ground vehicle and aircraft tires.
Creating industry standards and issuing publications are pretty much the sum total of TRA's activities, according to Pacuit. "We're the kind of organization that if you don't hear about us, we're doing our job," he said.
However, that doesn't mean the TRA hasn't faced substantial challenges during its existence. The industry consolidation of the past few decades presented financial challenges to the organization, although it quickly learned to adjust, according to Pacuit.
"When you have Uniroyal and BF Goodrich merging, and then Michelin acquiring that company, that's tough," he said.
The product liability lawsuits in the 1980s involving mismatched tires and rims also were a challenge, according to Pacuit. He provided expert testimony, along with other industry experts, in many of those cases.
"If we had lost one lawsuit, we probably would have ceased to exist," he said.
TRA's biggest ongoing challenge, however, is globalization of tire standards. Since 1978, Pacuit has been coordinator for the U.S. Technical Advisory Group for International Standardization, and as such he may well be the pre-eminent U.S. expert on the obstacles to creating global tire standards.
As more foreign vehicles are exported to the U.S., the need for standardized tires to replace the original equipment tires on those vehicles has become ever more urgent, Pacuit said.
"If you make the wheel in Italy, the tire in Greenville, S.C., and the valve in China, you have to make sure they fit together," he said.
Although P-metrics have been common in the tire industry for decades, there are still some challenges associated with them, according to Pacuit. The most obvious one is that the U.S.—alone among the nations of the world—has never adopted the metric system.
"When you're trying to convert kilopascals to PSI, how do you round it off?" he said. "Goodyear and Michelin have different needs in Europe than they do in the U.S. or in Japan."
In retirement, Pacuit hopes to take it easy at first. "I have four of the greatest grandchildren anybody could have, and I plan to spend a lot of time with them," he said. He also plans to devote time to his hobbies of golf and bicycling, and—sometime in the next year—fulfill his dream of hiking down the Grand Canyon.
Pacuit said he is happy knowing that TRA is doing its job as expected. "Considering what our purpose is, I'm very pleased with what we're doing," he said.