Boom. The sound thousands of government tires will make if the General Services Administration Federal Tire Program, with its Qualified Products List quality and safety testing, is terminated. Bust. What will happen to retreaders' government business if they lose the Quality Assurance Facility Inspection Program, which also is part of the Federal Tire Program.
Zoom. What will happen to tire prices if tire makers have to comply with hundreds of city, county, state and federal tire quality specifications in the absence of any central authority.
Losing the tire Federal Supply Schedule, a GSA mechanism for centralized procurement of tires, probably won't be a disaster. The schedule has been optional since 1993, and most agencies don't seem to be suffering too much making their own contracts with tire makers.
The QPL and QAFIP, however, are something else again. These programs provide useful guidance about the safety, reliability and appropriate use of retreads on government vehicles. Without them, government procurement officers have to devise their own safety and quality criteria, or just go with the low bid.
In the former case, tire makers will face such a vast compliance burden they will be forced either to raise prices drastically or give up altogether on government sales. In the latter, there will be an epidemic of tire-vehicle mismatches in government fleets-a potential safety and financial catastrophe.
Federal Environmental Executive Fran McPoland called the GSA ``penny-wise and pound-foolish'' for even considering the end of the Federal Tire Program, and we can only agree. The program is a prime example of an unglamorous, but solid and helpful government entity that benefits many thousands of product buyers, users and sellers.
Need to get your blood boiling? Read this, from a ``balanced'' feature about the European tire industry in the Feb. 17 issue of England's ``Economist'':
``Then again, few industries have to persuade the public that their version of a dull, smelly and virtually indistinguishable product is the best there is.''
We found the article a dull (smelly?) rehash, virtually indistinguishable from other, better reports.