WASHINGTON — State legislators in Maryland and Connecticut have ended attempts to pass replacement tire fuel efficiency legislation, largely because of the concerted efforts of tire and auto aftermarket associations.
In mid-March, the Maryland House of Delegates Environment Subcommittee gave a unanimous unfavorable recommendation to a bill that would have required the Maryland Department of the Environment to test and rate replacement tires for rolling resistance and fuel efficiency.
That same week, two similar bills in Connecticut were stripped of all tire fuel efficiency provisions, then missed the deadline for a favorable report from the Joint General Law Committee. Although those bills could come back later in the session, the tire fuel efficiency provisions are dead at least for this year, the Rubber Manufacturers Association said.
The RMA joined with the Tire Industry Association and the Specialty Equipment Market Association to fight the Maryland and Connecticut bills.
TIA and SEMA argued that the legislation would violate the Interstate Commerce and Due Process clauses of the Constitution because they would impose one-state standards on all 50 states. Also, the bills might persuade consumers to buy tires for low rolling resistance alone, ignoring other important features such as tread life and traction.
The RMA argued less from the standpoint of safety, which it said its tire-making members would never compromise in any case. Instead, it insisted a national consumer education program on tire rolling resistance and fuel efficiency would be far more useful than a patchwork of state mandates.
As with other states that considered tire fuel efficiency legislation, Maryland and Connecticut based their bills on the California legislation passed in 2003. That law requires the state to establish a standard to ensure that replacement tires sold in California are at least as fuel-efficient as the original equipment tires they replace.
"We´re seeing a lot of misinterpretation of what California has done," an RMA spokesman said. "We run into a lot of people who think that California´s program is up and running like gangbusters."
In fact, California has yet to issue a tire fuel efficiency standard, and the California Energy Commission hasn´t finished its feasibility study of the potential rule. Under the law´s language —language the RMA lobbied for — the standard can´t be issued if it would compromise tire safety or tread life, or add substantially to California´s generation of scrap tires.
Once legislators recognize these facts, and also realize what it would cost their states to administer such a standard, they generally back away, the spokesman said.
Paul Fiore, director of government and business relations at TIA, was glad the bills lost.
"We were able to convince the legislators fairly quickly that tire fuel efficiency is a federal issue," Fiore said.
Meanwhile, the RMA and TIA said they will be vigilant against the possible revival of tire fuel efficiency legislation in Vermont and Massachusetts.