The issue of tire safety again is hitting the headlines, and it's pitting the top two associations connected to the tire industry against each other.
On one hand is the Rubber Manufacturers Association—the group looking out for tire firms who make and/or market tires in the U.S.—calling for the return of mandatory tire registration. Opposing is the Tire Industry Association—the primary lobbyist for tire dealers—which argued that education is preferable to legislation.
The two viewpoints came head to head during a Dec. 9-10 symposium in Washington organized by the National Transportation Safety Board. The government agency organized the meeting in the wake of four catastrophic traffic accidents it began investigating earlier this year.
The RMA argued that before legislation made registration voluntary in 1982, more than 90 percent of tires sold from company-owned stores were registered, along with 40 to 50 percent from independent dealerships. After more than three decades of voluntary registration, the RMA claims that nearly 100 percent of tires sold at Bridgestone- or Goodyear-owned stores are registered, while rates by independent dealers, mass merchandisers and car dealers are likely in the single-digit percentages.
TIA countered that returning to mandatory laws would be overly burdensome to its members. It also accused the RMA of being hypocritical for arguing to legislate rather than educate on tire registration, but it favored the opposite approach during a panel at the symposium on tire aging.
In looking at the two arguments, it's clear that an overall registration rate in the 20-percent range for tires is unacceptable. That greatly increases the likelihood of dangerous tires being left on the road when 80 percent of consumers can't be informed of a recall.
The regression in registration rates under the voluntary system makes it obvious that change is needed. With today's technology, it would seem that it shouldn't be difficult to develop a system in which retailers register the tire on the spot and a database of TINs is created to easily identify tires involved in a recall.
As the government moves forward on this issue, it should keep in mind that if tire safety truly is a top concern, then that should be the main motivating force for its actions.
Of course with politicians and opposing lobbying groups involved, things are never that simple.