"There is interest there among the academic scientific community, among the regulatory community and among the tire manufacturers and non-governmental organizations focused on making the safest tire that is also the most environmentally responsible tire," Luke said.
Scrap tires, which the organization has been working on going back about three decades, will be another area of continued analysis. The goal is to grow the scrap tire market to provide stable infrastructure solutions. In recent years, one of the challenges the USTMA has faced is that the generation of scrap tires has outpaced the development of new sustainable markets, she said. As such, the association will work with other stakeholders—such as the Tire Industry Association—to reverse that trend.
"We see potential for major investment in surface transportation infrastructure that provides a lot of opportunities to address several of those sustainable issues simultaneously," Luke said. That will include pushing for more widespread use of rubber-modified asphalt to help modernize highways, making them more durable and resistant.
Climate change is another core initiative of the association, and an area where the gridlock in Washington will "increase the pressure on the (Biden) administration—even if it's self-applied pressure—to move its climate agenda through the regulatory agencies."
The USTMA is focused on working through agencies such as the U.S. Department of Transportation, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Commerce to ensure that the energy efficiency advancements developed by tire makers are part of the solution.
"We definitely see climate (change) as an opportunity for tire manufacturers because we have spent a lot on R&D to make our tires as energy-efficient as possible," Luke said. "With increased rolling resistance, we've reduced greenhouse gases significantly."
Retreaded tires also can play a role here, she added, because they significantly decrease energy consumption, carbon footprints and raw material usage.