HILTON HEAD, S.C.—Safety and sustainability are the keywords for the Rubber Manufacturers Association, said a top RMA executive at the 32nd Clemson University Global Tire Industry Conference.
In today's world, people are thinking about sustainability as a function of how manufacturers treat their customers, said Tracey Norberg, RMA senior vice president and general counsel.
“Sustainability is about positioning your operations in a way that will preserve your company's integrity as you go on,” she said.
Sustainability is a particularly important concept at the RMA, Norberg said, partly because for the first time in several years, the association is growing. Kumho Tire U.S.A. Inc. and Sumitomo Rubber North America Inc. joined recently, expanding the group's membership to 10, she said.
RMA members now have 31 manufacturing facilities in 15 states, with South Carolina, Oklahoma, North Carolina, Illinois and Alabama, in order, boasting the greatest number, Norberg said.
Those facilities accounted for 47 percent of tire shipments in the U.S. in 2015, she said. Of those shipments, 81 percent were passenger tires, with 11 percent light truck and 8 percent truck and bus, she said.
The RMA's efforts on safety and sustainability are demonstrated by the Fixing America's Surface Transportation Act, which President Obama signed into law in December, Norberg said.
Although the FACT Act's provisions on tires are only a small part of a gigantic bill, she said, those provisions are very important to the RMA. They include:
• Minimum performance standards for tire fuel efficiency and wet traction;
• A return to mandatory tire registration at the point of sale; and
• An online recall database for tire owners.
The FAST Act, according to Norberg, is “putting the pieces together” on tires and fuel economy, connecting consumer tire ratings and information with actual performance standards.
Since 2007, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration has had a directive to create a consumer tire information program for fuel efficiency, wet traction and treadwear, she said.
NHTSA issued a bare-bones tire fuel efficiency final rule in 2010, but left the details for later. Currently, the agency is scheduled to issue a consumer information proposal by July 27, 2016, with comments due by Sept. 29. However, judging from experience, these dates are far from certain, Norberg said.