WASHINGTON—The Tire Industry Association is joining the Rubber Manufacturers Association in support of a bill to create a national tire fuel efficiency consumer education program.
The Specialty Equipment Market Association, however, claims the bill would impose a major regulatory burden on most of the tire industry while confusing motorists about tire safety and maintenance.
Passed by the House Energy and Commerce Committee June 20, the bill mandates the establishment of a national tire fuel efficiency rating system for passenger tires, along with specifications for testing tire fuel efficiency and a national program to disseminate tire fuel efficiency information. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration would be responsible for writing and enforcing tire fuel efficiency rules.
The bill contains a provision preventing the national program from pre-empting the one approved in California three years ago, as well as another exempting snow tires, deep-tread tires and tires made in lots of 15,000 or less from the mandate.
The bill is now on the suspension calendar of the House of Representatives, and is expected to pass the House soon. If it does, it will move to the Senate.
The RMA sees the bill as a workable alternative to harsher tire fuel efficiency bills introduced in the House and Senate. An association spokesman said it hopes to achieve an even more favorable bill in the Senate, but early adjournment for the November elections could stifle chances for passage in both houses.
SEMA, however, would be pleased to see the bill die. The association insists the bill duplicates the effort NHTSA is already making on tire fuel efficiency. The agency, SEMA said, is basing its work on the report issued earlier this year by the Transportation Research Board of the National Academy of Sciences.
The tire industry already has its hands full implementing NHTSA rules on tire information mandated by the Transportation Recall Enhancement, Accountability and Documentation Act, according to SEMA. A tire fuel efficiency law would impose substantial burdens and costs on the industry, including thousands of small businesses, while potentially harming such tire characteristics as stopping distance, cornering ability and tread life, it said.
"Tire fuel efficiency programs may drive many consumers to purchase only OE manufacturer-recommended tires because the program would potentially exempt OEM-selected tires and unfairly imply that they are superior to aftermarket products," SEMA said.
TIA´s Government Affairs Committee acknowledged SEMA´s objections, but decided in the end to join the RMA in supporting the legislation.
"While there may be some initial confusion as consumers are first exposed to ratings that affect tire fuel efficiency, the committee believed that the prospect of individual states developing mandates, and how that would play out for many of our members running multi-state businesses in wholesale and retail, weighs more heavily," TIA said in a news release.
Representatives of all three organizations said they had held meetings on the tire efficiency bill and agreed to disagree. They also said the disagreement would not affect relations between the groups in any way.
"We have a position, and they have a position," said Stuart Gosswein, SEMA director of federal government affairs.