WASHINGTON—2017 brought massive changes to Washington, making 2018 all the harder to predict, according to industry association representatives.
The Trump administration has demonstrated real concern about business growth and the government-related handicaps businesses face, the association officials said.
"With the Trump administration, you don't have to watch for the Federal Register to come out at 4 a.m. to see what the surprises might be," said Robert L. Redding, Washington representative for the Automotive Service Association.
On the other hand, its focus on reducing regulatory burdens, while beneficial on its face, has led to delay and confusion in necessary regulatory activity, they said.
"The length of time getting people confirmed is a problem," Redding said. "There's no NHTSA administrator, no head of the Federal Insurance Office, no head at the FTC."
Here are some of the main issues the tire and auto service industries will be watching in 2018:
The U.S. Tire Manufacturers Association wrote the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration Dec. 1, praising the agency's plans to eliminate unnecessary, outdated and redundant regulations.
The USTMA had several suggestions on tire-related regulations that could be repealed, including the bead unseating test required under federal tire safety standards and the Uniform Tire Quality Grading System.
Yet also as of early December, President Trump had not answered the Sept. 20 letter of USTMA President and CEO Anne Forristall Luke, requesting that Trump appoint a NHTSA administrator as soon as possible.
The USTMA still is working closely with NHTSA's professional staff, as well as with congressional committees that have oversight over the agency, according to Luke. But not having an administrator in place makes it difficult for NHTSA to act on important pending rules, such as revisions in tire registration procedures and the consumer education portion of the tire fuel efficiency labeling standard.
"Outside the tire industry, NHTSA has a very important safety mandate," she said. "The staff is doing very good work in moving that mission forward. But the agency is without political leadership at the top to help the staff manage that."
Roy Littlefield, executive vice president for the Tire Industry Association, agreed with Luke. "It's hard to imagine anything big coming out of NHTSA until there's an administrator," he said.