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Is Legislation the Way to Overcome a Century of 'Fail'?

February 15, 2012
As suggested by RMA, a legislative solution for the basic rules of proper tire repair is being considered. The goal is to get ALL service facilities to utilize established, accepted and proven tire repair procedures and products.
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The Official Rules of Baseball actually has two distinct parts. The first covers the basics, from field layout to game organization. The second is dedicated to legislating against those who would twist the “spirit of the game” for their own gain.

Some would call them “cheaters.”

Having spent many years as coach and umpire, I couldn’t help thinking about that rulebook when I heard about the RMA’s suggestion for a firm, legislative approach to basic rules of proper tire repair. That is, codify the entire process for all vehicle service facilities – tire dealers, chains, company stores, mass merchants, independent garages, gas stations, car dealers and the like.

The RMA decided to tackle the tire repair issue head on (some might say “finally”) and a legislative solution is among a number of options being considered. The goal is to get ALL service facilities to utilize established, accepted and proven tire repair procedures and products.

RMA also is looking at updating its tire repair publications and including tire repair as a part of its national “Be Tire Smart” consumer education program.

These trial balloons were floated this past December to gauge the interest and temperature of tire dealers, suppliers and others, according to Dan Zielinski, RMA vice president of pubic affairs. Nothing was cast in stone. Still, the legislative idea caught the most attention, and the pushback was sharp and quick:

“We don’t need no stinking tire repair laws!”

While the idea of legislating proper tire repairs may not be pleasant – and comes with complex questions about how any law(s) would be developed, implemented and enfor­ced – I have to say: Bravo!

To the RMA and TIA and the Rub­ber Association of Canada I say: Yes, we need law(s) to mandate proper tire repair. We can’t do it ourselves!

And we also need updated training and posters and other materials. And we need to get them into every single tire service outlet. And tire repair has to be a focal point with consumers, all year round. And every tire manufacturer and supplier must support this movement.

And there are 22.8 million reasons why. Actually two very good reasons – Casey and Melanie Barber, who left three small children behind when they died in a tragic 2006 accident caused by a faulty tire repair performed by an untrained junior tech at a San Diego car dealership. Last January, their sons won a $22.8 million verdict against the dealer.

This unfortunate accident came despite an abundance of training aids and instruction and posters and more training and more posters. All of the training in the world, however, means nothing unless EVERYONE participates and EVERYONE follows the instruction.

We have had more than 100 years to get this right, and we’ve all failed miserably. With a big, fat “F.” The fact that in 2012 – more than a century since the very first tire and tube repair – there is still a large audience that won’t (or refuses to) recognize that there are well-accepted, tested and proven repair standards and procedures says all you need to know. Don’t believe me? Try talking to some of your own.

Yes, all of those things should be done because the driving public deserves better than blind adherence to hand-me-down misinformation and, worse yet, the outright cheapness of so-called “tire service pro­viders” who sell 25-cent plugs for $5 as a “permanent tire repair.”

All of those things should be done because the reputation of this entire industry – especially that of independent tire dealers – is at stake. How can we sell the value of today’s high-tech tires when we tolerate – even encourage by our continued inaction – improper repairs and misinformation?

I know legislation can often end up as good intentions gone awry, but what are we as an industry to do when all other efforts to encourage compliance to a simple, proven set of procedures fall short? What?

There are plenty of “law-abiding citizens,” tire stores that go the extra yard to make sure their repairs are above reproach. But “plenty” is a woeful number, especially since consum­ers often can’t differentiate between types of tire stores or think they can buy a “proper tire repair” at the local parts store.

But they understand “tragic accident” and “orphan” and “jury verdict.” And with those they quickly paint all tire stores with the same ugly brush.

The claim from some that all dealers need is more training is a hollow, lame excuse. Great training has been available for decades, from associations, suppliers and magazines alike. In fact, see this month's cover story.

Sure, we can always do a better job of educating; we could do better with a lot of things. But until ALL tire service providers GET trained and then FOLLOW that training, it doesn’t matter. 

History has taught time and time again that those who fail to police themselves end up being policed. This is on you, so what are you going to do about it?