WASHINGTON—Three years after the Rubber Manufacturers Association jettisoned its non-tire arm and became strictly a tire-oriented organization, the move is proving successful, according to the RMA's president.
"The division into two associations has been very beneficial to both groups," said Charles A. Cannon. "It has allowed (the former Elastomer Products Group members) to pursue the interests of rubber product manufacturers, as well as allowing us to place a particular focus on the interests of tire manufacturers."
The RMA turned into an eight-member tire company organization on Oct. 1, 2010, when the EPG officially split from the parent association. That group became the Association for Rubber Products Manufacturers.
The Washington-based RMA now represents the most renowned brand names in the world tire industry—Bridgestone, Continental, Cooper, Goodyear, Michelin, Pirelli, Toyo and Yokohama. Meanwhile, the ARPM has been adding one or two member companies a month since its inception, according to Cannon.
"Most of those companies have annual sales of $5 million to $50 million, and the ARPM is tailored to the needs of businesses at that level," he said. "What we couldn't resolve as a combined group was the difference in needs between multibillion-dollar companies and smaller companies."
The RMA's focus on the tire industry, Cannon said, has allowed its board of directors to concentrate exclusively on issues important to tire manufacturers.
"The single most important change was the focus of our board of directors and the setting of an agenda," he said. "That was much more difficult with a more diverse board."
Since becoming a tires-only organization, he said, the RMA has addressed the issue of proper tire repair strongly—not only in a series of publications detailing proper repairs, but also on the legislative and regulatory fronts.
The association also is pursuing legislation to ensure the safety of used tires on the road, as well as methods—electronic and otherwise—to improve the traditionally low rates of tire registration, Cannon said.
The environment remains a top priority for the RMA, according to Cannon. A meeting last January on chemicals commonly used in tire manufacturing led to a restructuring in the organization and an increased focus on environmental regulation, he said.
The RMA is very much involved in state legislation, according to Cannon. "We spend a lot of time in California," he said.
Tire repair and used tire legislation is a large part of this effort, but the most important part is making sure states continue to have effective scrap tire abatement and recycling laws on the books.
As scrap tire stockpiles diminish, he said, state legislatures tend to relax standards. Also, budget crises have led many states to move funds dedicated for scrap tire management to the general fund, he said.
Dividing responsibilities for creating product standards under the aegis of the American National Standards Institute has been an unqualified success, Cannon said. As an example, he pointed to the ARPM's work on standards for belts and hoses.
Jay Spears, director of standards and regulation, the Americas for Continental Tire the Americas L.L.C., has noticed no real difference in the RMA's level of service to its members since the split with the EPG.
"The RMA has become more focused on tire issues of course, but also has become much more proactive in fighting for the tire industry in Washington and throughout the country," Spears said.
"I am not sure this has to do with this split as much as a change in focus of the board from being defensive in tire issues to having a more forward-thinking approach," he said. "I do not see that the RMA has lost any influence because it is only tires. In fact, I think it helps define the message when working with outside parties."
Officials of Bridgestone Americas and Michelin North America Inc. declined comment. Goodyear and Cooper Tire & Rubber Co. had not responded at press time.
Although the RMA and the ARPM have yet to collaborate formally on any program or project, the relationship between the organizations is affable, according to Cannon. He said he speaks often with ARPM President Charlie Braun and ARPM Executive Director Troy Nix.
"We pick up the phone and speak to each other whenever we need to," he said.