On Dec. 9-10, 2014, the National Transportation Safety Board hosted a symposium in Washington on passenger tire safety. At that meeting, the Rubber Manufacturers Association proposed an end to the voluntary tire registration rule Congress approved in 1982 and a return to the mandatory system begun in the 1970s.
This recommendation was opposed by the Tire Industry Association, whose predecessor organization, the National Tire Dealers & Retreaders Association, fought a hard battle to end mandatory registration in the first place.
At a time when the NTSB is investigating fatal accidents involving recalled tires that somehow stayed on the road, strong measures are needed, according to Dan Zielinski, RMA senior vice president of public affairs.
“After more than 30 years of experience with voluntary tire registration, the difference in registration rates between independent retailers and company-owned stores is stark,” he said. “The system has not worked.”
But while TIA favors stronger measures to register tires, it cannot support a registration system in which all the burdens and penalties are laid solely on retailers, according to Roy Littlefield III, TIA executive vice president.
“I can't think of any other product safety registration system in which the retailer is held responsible,” he said. “If a child safety seat is recalled and can't be recovered, Walmart doesn't get fined.”
Kevin Rohlwing, TIA's vice president of training, testified at the NTSB symposium. “The retailer is taking all of the accountability under the threat of serious fines that we have seen range from $1,000 to $6,000 to a maximum of $400,000 to $16 million,” he said at the session. “These are examples that we have seen over the years.”
TIA is doing everything it can to inform tire retailers and consumers about their responsibilities under the tire registration law, according to Roy Littlefield IV, TIA government affairs manager. Soon it will issue a new video, “Tire Safety Begins with Tire Registration,” which retailers can download free and play in their showrooms, he said.
Tire registration will be a major part of TIA's Lobby Day, scheduled for Feb. 5, according to Roy Littlefield III and IV. During Lobby Day, TIA members will have a chance to meet with key legislators and congressional staff members to discuss the issues most crucial to tire retailers.
RMA President Charles A. Cannon said that responsibility for tire registration properly belongs at the point of sale. But he also said his association is more than willing to work with TIA to create workable alternatives to the current system.
“What we're suggesting is finding the best way to collect information if we're going to conduct a reasonable tire recall,” he said. The RMA told TIA in advance that it would recommend a return to mandatory registration at the NTSB symposium, and that it looks forward to working with TIA to find mutually acceptable solutions, he said.
Roy Littlefield III, however, said TIA felt blindsided by the RMA's actions. “It's so unfortunate the way things happened,” he said.
Changing the current tire registration law would take an act of Congress. The NTSB report on tire safety is expected to be issued in the summer of 2015. The NTSB has no legislative power, but if it recommends a return to mandatory registration, that recommendation would have considerable persuasive force.