WASHINGTON—Three things were crystal-clear at the National Transportation Safety Board's Passenger Vehicle Tire Safety Symposium.
First, everyone agreed that nothing is better to assure tire safety than to keep your tires properly inflated and maintained.
Second, everyone agreed that consumers need to be educated about the importance of inflation, maintenance and registration in case of a recall.
Third, the Rubber Manufacturers Association and the Tire Industry Association are far apart on how to accomplish the goal of increasing tire registration.
At the symposium, Tracey Norberg, senior vice president and general counsel for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, called for a return to the 1970's mandate on tire retailers to register all tires they sell.
“From our perspective, it really would be the best approach to make the registration system mandated,” she said. “We have had 32 years to try the voluntary route, and it has not worked.”
Norberg quoted statistics showing that in 1976, when mandatory registration was law, registration rates were 90 percent or more from company-owned stores, 40 to 50 percent from independent dealerships.
Today, she said, registration rates are nearly 100 percent company-owned stores, but in the single-digit range from independent dealerships.
However, Kevin Rohlwing, TIA senior vice president of training, said a return to mandatory tire registration would place an unfair and potentially ruinous burden on tire dealers.
The original registration law passed by Congress made tire dealers responsible for ensuring that tires were registered. The dealers fought to make registration voluntary and succeeded with the passage of the Surface Transportation Act in 1982.
Fines for noncompliance with the mandatory registration law ranged from $1,000 to $6,000 per violation, with maximum fines as much as $16 million, according to Rohlwing.
“The threat of bankruptcy is what retailers are being forced to face,” he said. “We would be glad to do it if we had a system that worked.”
Because there is no main database for tire identification numbers, it is extremely difficult for tire dealers or anyone else to find the TIN of a recalled tire, Rohlwing said.
“We need to get that information in the hands of technicians, because they could spot this ahead of anything and maybe pull some of these tires out of the system,” he said.
RMA listed mandatory tire registration as one of four recommendations to the NTSB, along with a TIN lookup tool, ending the sale of unsafe used tires and urging states to inform motorists about tire safety.
TIA, however, vowed to fight mandatory registration, accusing the RMA of making “little to no effort” to educate consumers about registration and recalls.